By Joe Guzzardi
July 10, 2013
For years, illegal immigrants have been referred to as “in the shadows.” The phrase is nonsense. They’re standing in the bright light at day labor centers, medical clinics or even in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings as Senator Patrick Leahy’s personally invited guests.
The most widely accepted total of illegal immigrants in the United States is 11 million. But if, as advocates insist, they’re really in the shadows, we can’t possibly know the full total. There might be 20 or 30 million, double or triple the estimate.
An accurate alien count is crucial because as immigration legislation heads to a House committee conference, any congressional accord to legalize illegal immigrants would have disastrous consequences.
At the debate’s core isn’t citizenship, about which few illegal immigrants care, but legal work authorization. Once legal status is granted, the opportunity for citizenship would eventually follow. But 11 million (or 20 or 30 million) additional potential workers competing in a shrinking job market would be an instant stab in the heart to 20 million unemployed or under-employed Americans. Issuing non-immigrant work visas to an additional 30 million foreign nationals within a decade, as S. 744 does, would flood the labor market and make much more difficult for America’s unemployed to find a job.
Because S. 744’s promised enforcement provisions have multiple exceptions, waivers and loopholes, the bill can’t be taken seriously. The White House has demonstrated myriad times that it has no interest in enforcing existing immigration law. S. 744 won’t be any different. If President Obama can, on his whim, postpone the employer mandate included in the Affordable Healthcare Act, he can—and would—kill any enforcement requirements like more fencing, more border patrol agents and mandatory E-Verify. The Congressional Budget Office calculates that S. 744 would not significantly deter future illegal immigration and would therefore perpetuate the problem.
S.744 should be killed, not massaged into a series of House bills that in the aggregate grants amnesty but in smaller bites. The Senate advanced S. 744 under the false pretense that it would bolster the economy and eventually strengthen the border. Not coincidentally, on the day House Republicans met, the White House released its 34-page report titled The Economic Benefits of Fixing Our Broken Immigration System. This is a heavy handed effort to avoid the reality that the alleged benefits would accrue to legalized immigrants, not American taxpayers. Taken as a whole, the amnestied aliens are mostly young, poor and non- English speakers who would be net users of—not contributors to—social services.
To date, House Speaker Boehner has insisted that he will not allow a vote on the Senate bill. The concern is that piecemeal House legislation—the DREAM Act, higher H-1B visa caps and more low-skilled workers—would in its totality be S. 744‘s equivalent.
According to the Gang of 8 and its allies, passing immigration reform is a national priority. Nothing could be further from the truth. The public opposes amnesty before lockdown tight border security. According to numerous polls, about 60 percent of Hispanic voters reject amnesty before enforcement; 56 percent of Hispanics disagree with allowing aliens to receive federal benefits during the legalization process. In Pennsylvania, my home state, immigration isn’t on the radar. Ditto for most other states.
Immigration is a Beltway-driven issue that doesn’t have to be settled before the August recess or at any other artificially imposed deadline. What’s needed is a thoughtful process that gives time to Congress to write legislation that benefits all Americans and not just special interests. S. 744 is a bad, unworthy bill that hurts Americans and whose consequences could never be undone.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]