By Joe Guzzardi
October 31, 2013
The latest in the constantly evolving comprehensive immigration reform drama is that California Republican congressman Jeff Denham co-signed House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s amnesty legislation, H.R. 15.
Denham joining the Democrats is unsurprising; his district includes heavily Hispanic (35 percent) Modesto. But by becoming the first Republican to officially team up with Democrats, Denham hopes to set an example for GOP fence-sitters. In their quest to corral 218 votes, advocates have a target list of 28 House Republicans like Denham who have indicated some support for immigration reform.
Explaining his position, Denham referenced the frequently cited “broken immigration system” and other unconvincing arguments. Denham said in his press release that the U.S. has “failed to secure the border” and doesn’t “enforce current laws.” He wants an “earned path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants who will “learn English, pay fines and back taxes and pass background checks.”
Denham’s remarks may make good copy. But they’re completely removed from reality. The U.S. immigration system is “broken” and “current laws” aren’t enforced because for years the federal government has refused to do so. Few would learn English and fewer still would pay fines.
Hard facts argue against amnesty. If immigration reform legislation passes, the new law would legalize illegal immigrants. Whether their revised status is provisional or permanent, it would include work authorization and therefore add more prospective employees to the existing labor pool. Amnesty would also encourage more illegal immigration. In 1986 when the Immigration Reform and Control Act passed, the U.S. illegal immigrant population was about 2.5 million. During the elapsed 27 years, the illegal immigrant populace has more than quadrupled to 11 million, many of whom live in poverty. Modesto, for example, ranks fifth nationwide in residents living below the poverty line.
The San Joaquin Valley has an average 17 percent unemployment rate. Those looking for a job don’t need more competition from foreign nationals who knowingly broke U.S. immigration laws.
With less than three working weeks left in the year and with Congress focused on bitter budget negotiations, getting an immigration bill to the floor seems improbable—emphasis on “seems.” But House leadership including Speaker John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Bob Goodlatte and Eric Cantor has said that they want to get “something” done within the next few weeks. The vehicle they hope to use to get them into a disastrous Senate conference is a GOP-backed bill, H.R. 1417 written by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) which the House Judiciary Committee approved last May.
Disingenuously, H.R. 1417 allows the GOP to claim that it’s sticking to its border security first, amnesty later maxim. In truth, H.R. 1417 not only won’t secure the border, it weakens existing law. H.R. 1417 calls only for the Department of Homeland Security to submit, according to the bill’s language, “a strategy” within two years for “operational control” and have “actual” control of the “southwest border within five years.” Wide open borders for another five years means illegal immigration would continue unabated.
Americans don’t believe immigration laws like the deceptive H.R. 1417 would be more vigorously enforced than they were in 1986. Amnesty is bad for all Americans, especially its minorities. If Denham gets his way on amnesty, Modesto’s Hispanic, black and Asian Americans would be left out in the cold.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]