By Joe Guzzardi
March 25, 2013
When the Gang of Eight left Washington last week to start a two-week spring vacation, its closed door immigration negotiations had badly bogged down. The Gang’s agenda is to draft a saleable comprehensive immigration reform bill that would grant instant work authorization to 11 million alien regardless of whether it eventually offered citizenship.
Back in January, the eight senators, their congressional allies and the Hispanic lobby blustered about what it called the broad consensus to pass amnesty “now.” But in politics, two months is an eternity. Passing a bill may once have seemed a mere formality. Today however, the Gang’s blueprint looks less achievable. During the last week, amnesty advocates stumbled, and then almost fell off the cliff.
First, the alleged consensus has come unglued. Posing a huge obstacle, two supposed but unlikely allies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, can’t see eye-to-eye on anything. Earlier in the deliberations, the two parties agreed that 200,000 new seasonal guest worker visas—an integral part of the comprehensive game plan— should be issued. But the rub came over wages. The Chamber, representing among others the hospitality industry, wanted to pay housekeepers an hourly $8.44, a wage that when annualized falls below the federal poverty level. The Chamber rejected an $11.39 labor counter offer. The nasty labor versus business dispute highlights immigration reform’s harsh, callous reality: Import poor people and then pay them as little as possible to ensure that they stay poor. Next, construction unions also bristled over the proposal to create new temporary visas. Arguing that there’s “no need” for temporary visas and pointing to construction workers 15.7 percent unemployment rate, unions have asked to be exempt.
As ominous as the rift between labor and business is for amnesty proponents, a more foreboding obstacle surfaced. Despite repeated Senate pledges that border security will be an essential component of immigration legislation, that goal appears to be a long way off. During a recent House hearing, Department of Homeland Security senior officials admitted to a shocked panel that promises made two years ago to develop new standards to measure border security have not been completed and, more important, will not be finished any time soon. Since border security is a so-called “trigger” to reform, the administration’s candid confession that it can’t gauge border effectiveness is a huge step backward. One of the gang’s most prominent members, John McCain (R-AZ) admitted that without guaranteed border security, he couldn’t promise Americans that they “would not have to live in fear.”
As the immigration debate grinds on endlessly, Americans need to focus on two things. First, amnesty would grant 11 million new worker permits and also issue more high tech and unskilled labor visas. In an economy that as of February has a 14.9 percent broad U-6 unemployment rate and 20 million unemployed or unemployed Americans, amnesty insults citizens especially black and Hispanic minorities as well as recent college graduates whose unemployment rates are even higher.
Second, since the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, five different presidents have failed to secure either the northern or the southern border. None of the five administrations have evidenced the slightest interest in enforcement and instead have expanded legal immigration while ignoring illegal immigration’s negative consequences.
Anyone who believes what Congress promises to do once amnesty legislation passes should think twice.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been nationally syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]