HOLDEN – Oh, boy. Here we go again — taking another crack at “immigration reform.”
Congress has more than quadrupled legal immigration since the middle of the 20th century. But this decision was never driven by public demand.
Since 1986, Congress has also passed seven amnesties for about 6 million illegal immigrants. We now have 11 million more.
The record is clear: Amnesties encourage more illegal immigration. Since 2000, more than 60 bills calling for another amnesty have been introduced, but they haven’t passed.
Amnesty is so unpopular with Americans that politicians won’t use the word anymore. They call it “earned legalization” or “pathway to citizenship,” and that’s why they’re eager to pass “comprehensive immigration reform” with great expediency and as little public debate as possible.
Americans are grumpy about giving one group of lawbreakers special protected status. We want our laws enforced impartially, without regard to “gender, race or national origin.”
Powerful lobbies have dominated immigration legislation for decades: businesses wanting more workers; ethnic politicians, an expanded base; immigration lawyers, more clients; universities, more students; labor union leadership, more dues-paying members, and foreign governments, expanded remittances.
Latin American countries alone received more than $69 billion in remittances from foreign nationals working here in 2010.
And both parties shamelessly pander to the Hispanic vote. Even with record unemployment, Washington power brokers are in agreement: They want more foreign workers. And they call it “bipartisanship.”
Corporate lobbies fund think tanks, economists and immigrant advocacy groups to drum up support. Journalists tell us compelling personal stories about individual illegal immigrants but rarely address mass immigration’s adverse effects on the country at large. And the public has little information or real debate for making informed policy decisions.
Not surprisingly, the so-called “reform” now being pushed is more of the same, only bigger. The same players are calling the shots, and we’re still not getting to the real issues.
Immigration legislation has been haphazardly banged together, like tax policy, in response to powerful, self-interested lobbies. That’s why the numbers exploded.
We have basic questions to decide for ourselves as a nation:
• Should the government regulate immigration, setting limits and enforcing them, as other nations do and as we did in the past, or should we deregulate immigration, as we did with trade and banking, and allow market forces to decide the numbers?
• If we regulate immigration, do we want an increase or a decrease?
• What criteria should determine that decision?
• How big do we want to grow?
• Should “labor shortages” be solved by importing foreign workers or by requiring employers to hire from within?
The Bloomberg News op-ed “Immigration Reform Must Look Beyond Today” promotes the views of business elites for a market-based system.
Expanding labor markets has depressed wages and generated enormous wealth at the top. But the immigrants’ low wages didn’t generate enough taxes to cover the public services they required. And taxpayers picked up the bill: One quarter of immigrant households use means-tested programs. In short, the enormous profit from cheap labor is private, but the costs are public.
Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist Jerry Kammer made this point in 2011, the first time Congress introduced “reform”:
“The ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform package that advocates have long been promoting is another example of the privatize profits/socialize loss politics that often prevail on Capitol Hill with regard to many issues, not just immigration. Politically powerful and well organized interest groups persuade lawmakers to design policy systems that concentrate benefits among the politically active and disperse the costs among the unwilling but unaware American public.”
Every nation limits immigration — not because they don’t like immigrants, but because they want policies that expand the middle class for all, immigrants and native-born.
But we don’t have an expanding middle class. Many recent immigrants are struggling.. We have record unemployment, growing poverty and stagnant wages. We face massive fiscal debt, a crumbling infrastructure, unfunded entitlements and obscene income disparities.
In short, it defies common sense that in the midst of this astounding mismanagement of our national interest, politicians want to “reform” immigration with another massive amnesty and expansion in foreign workers. We need reform, but not this kind.
Jonette Christian of Holden is head of Mainers for Sensible Immigration Policy.