President Obama has repeatedly promised Hispanics that he wants to pass “comprehensive immigration reform.” But journalists have largely failed to tell us exactly what it is.

This legislation was introduced in 2006 by Sens. Edward Kennedy and John McCain. And almost universally, it was hailed in our press as the “bipartisan solution” to our “broken” immigration system.

Journalists focused on that part of the bill that provided legalization for 10 million illegal immigrants. And they mostly ignored the other part of the bill, which massively expanded legal immigration, creating new ways for foreign workers to enter the U.S. labor market.

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation did a study that concluded that the Kennedy-McCain bill would have added between 100 million and 192 million new immigrants in two decades. Although the press reported almost nothing about the potential population impact of the Kennedy-McCain bill, the Senate passed a flurry of amendments unanimously, and rapidly chopped it down.

In the end, the Senate bill would have merely doubled legal immigration visas. And that’s what we get when we “compromise” with the open-border lobbies.

The second problem with this legislation: Since most illegal immigrants are very poor, have low wages and large families, they are high users of public systems. The Congressional Budget Office studied these costs and concluded this bill would have added $126 billion to the deficit in the first decade.

“Comprehensive immigration reform” has been repeatedly introduced and defeated, but it’s not dead.

Expanding legal immigration and creating more amnesty and legalization schemes is not the only way to “reform” our immigration system. President Clinton’s U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform told Congress in 1997 to reduce legal immigration and strictly enforce immigration laws. But Congress and the press largely ignored the commission.

And for decades, our immigration policies have been dominated by an array of special interests, causing immigration numbers to skyrocket, more than quadrupling since the middle of the 20th century.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants more foreign workers and consumers. Labor union leadership wants to expand dues-paying union members. Hispanic leadership wants to grow its base, as does Democratic leadership.

College presidents want to expand their enrollments. Immigration lawyers want to increase their clients. The Catholic Church wants to expand the number of American Catholics, who largely fund the Vatican.

Foreign governments seek to protect and expand the flow of remittances into their countries from foreign nationals working in America. In 2010, more than $69 billion went to Latin American countries alone. And corporate America is funding the think tanks that generate endless “studies” telling us that more immigration will grow our economy.

In short, a vast coalition of liberal Democrats and neoconservative Republicans agree, for different reasons, that more immigration is what they want for America. And that’s why the numbers exploded.

But where lies our national interest? And can it be served by seeking “compromise” among these powerful lobbies?

The Obama administration has assumed unprecedented constitutional power in setting immigration policy: It decided to limit deportation to terrorists and felons, and it sued states that enforced immigration laws against the employers. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wants to enforce our immigration laws as they are written and encourage self-deportation.

But both candidates want to expand legal immigration again, stapling green cards to foreign graduates’ diplomas.

Haven’t we baby boomers created enough hardship for the next generation of Americans? Our labor markets weren’t swamped with foreign workers when we graduated. With 23 million unemployed and underemployed Americans, we should demand that both parties start protecting American jobs.

Let’s require employers to recruit and develop the skills of our own people, and stop idealizing foreign talent. If we don’t have enough scientists, let’s demand a better education system and turn a blind eye to those who generate panic over the idea that America is “losing the global competition for talent.” Nonsense.

We have 40 million foreign-born Americans with enormous potential. And we need to do for them what we, whose families came from Europe, did for ourselves back in the 1920s: We passed laws severely restricting immigration so we wouldn’t compete against each other. And we built the middle class. Let’s do for them what we did for ourselves.

– Special to the Press Herald