Friday, May 25, 2007

Rating the Immigration Bill

In a remarkable display of bipartisanship, the Senate on Monday voted for cloture on an illegal alien (immigration) bill that few Americans like in its entirety (the New York Times poll notwithstanding). The “Grand Bargain” addresses an issue that all Americans agree needs to be fixed. As usual, the devil is in the details.

And, oh, what details. The 300+ page bill is readable by lawyers with a masochistic bent (Our friend Hugh Hewitt spent the weekend reading the “McCain jam down.”) and pundits like Steven Colbert who hired a Mexican immigrant (who did not need to press 2) to read it for him. Colbert reports that the fiery border moat with the fireproof dragons was nowhere to be found. So much for border security.

Now down to business. Key components of the “compromise” include:

1. Immediate amnesty for 12-20 million illegal aliens who will get legal status for residence and jobs.
2. New flows of 200 thousand temporary foreign workers each year.
3. Mandatory workplace verification.
4. Enhanced border enforcement.

The driving force for the bill is an odd coalition of big-government Democrats and big-business Republicans. Democrats argue that the welfare state requires liberal immigration policies. Today there are only 3.3 workers for every retiree. With the 77 million baby boomers beginning to retire, we need to bring in 900,000 immigrants a year so that when the last of the boomers retires in 2030 there will be 2.2 workers for every retiree – barely sufficient to keep the system from collapse. And, of course, Democrats count on most of the immigrants joining their Party.

Big business Republicans want the cheap workers to keep profits high. But at what cost? Tom Sowell dispels the myth of the illegal “doing work that no American would do” and making a positive economic contribution.

Every aspect of the current immigration bill, and of the arguments made for it, has Fraud written all over it. The first, and perhaps biggest, fraud is the argument that illegal aliens are “doing jobs Americans won't do.” There are no such jobs. Even in the sector of the economy in which illegal immigrants have the highest representation -- agriculture -- they are just 24 percent of the workers. Where did the other 76 percent come from, if these are jobs that Americans won't do?

Furthermore, the argument that illegal agricultural workers are “making a contribution to the economy” is likewise misleading. For well over half a century, this country has had chronic agricultural surpluses which have cost the taxpayers billions of dollars a year to buy, store, and try to get rid of on the world market at money-losing prices. If there were fewer agricultural workers and smaller agricultural surpluses, the taxpayers would save money.

The economic implications were examined exhaustively by Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation. Continuing to import a low-skilled population under family-based immigration will cost the welfare state far more than the immigrants' contributions to the economy and government. Rector argued that low-skilled immigrants are costly to the welfare state at every point in their life cycle, and are very costly when elderly. Just the millions of illegals already here will, if given amnesty, cost an average of $10,000 per year in various entitlements (Social Security, food stamps, Medicaid, housing, etc.) Cumulatively, the cost of the current illegals amounts to more than $2.5 trillion (for 12 million) or as much as $4 trillion (for 20 million) over 30 years.

We can forget about the solubility of Social Security and Medicare.

Another cost is purely societal. Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute offers this wake-up call to sentimentalists who cling to “the myth of the redeeming power of Hispanic family values, the Hispanic work ethic, and Hispanic virtue.”
From 1990 to 2004, Hispanics accounted for 92 percent of the increase in poor people. Only 53 percent of Hispanics earn high school diplomas, the lowest among American ethnic groups. Half of all children born to Hispanic-Americans in 2005 were born out of wedlock -- a reliable predictor of social pathologies.

And while we have millions of immigrants waiting to come to the USA legally, the Senate bill sends the message that these immigrants would be better served by violating our laws, rather than by following them.

Internal enforcement is another huge problem.

Illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. before Jan. 1, 2007, would be able to register for “Z visas” and continue to live and work here. Section 601(h) of the new bill explains how to handle applicants for the Z credentials. An alien who files application for Z-nonimmigrant status shall, upon submission of any evidence required under paragraphs (f) and (g) and after the Secretary has conducted appropriate background checks, to include name and fingerprint checks, that have not by the end of the next business day produced information rendering the applicant ineligible.

The government gets one-two days to check them out… and then they may work legally, may leave the country and return and may not be detained for immigration purposes… all before even one more mile of fence is built or a workplace verification system is constructed.Everyone knows the federal government simply lacks the ability to conduct millions of background checks on the illegal aliens who will be regularized by the law.

Border security is problematic.

The proposed bill authorizes the hiring of Border Patrol agents until 20,000 are on staff, the construction of at least 300 miles of vehicular barriers and 360 miles of double fencing and the end of “catch and return.” The draft bill calls for an increase in border patrol agents of not less than 2,000 in fiscal year '07, 2,400 in '08, and 2,400 more in each fiscal year through 2012, for a total of 14,000 over six years. But of course appropriations are not bound by this direction: authorized doesn't mean funded.

The proposed border fence is 390 miles less than the 750 miles that was authorized over a year ago. Hugh Hewitt asked Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff how much of the 750 has been constructed. After a lot of hemming and hawing the Secretary finally admitted than the strict answer is zero, but that 75 miles are under construction and should be finished by September. At that rate the proposed 360 miles will take another 3-4 years –- if the funds are appropriated. There is a serious credibility problem when it comes to security.

I’ve heard two broad approaches to the illegal immigrant issue and the Senate bill, one from George Will and one from Hugh Hewitt.

George Will says we should concentrate on border control and workplace enforcement facilitated by a biometric identification card issued to immigrants who arrive here legally. Treat the problem of the 12 million with benign neglect. Their children born here are American citizens; the parents of these children will pass away.

Hugh Hewitt takes a more centrist approach recommending that the bill be modified to mandate that the entire fence will be built before any Z visa issues, that the Border Patrol be dramatically expanded before any Z visa issues, detailing the expansion in the staffs of the DHS and FBI charged with processing and investigating the Z visa applicants and declining to extend to any illegal alien from “countries of special interest” any status whatsoever.

I’m inclined to lean Hugh’s way if only because politics is the art of compromise and the amended bill would be vastly better than the status quo.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a joke this bill is. Many of the illegals are from the Indian tribes in the mountains of Mexico where there are no bureaucracies to register kids born, or people who live there, etc. There isn't even electricity yet!! They make their own homes out of sticks and adobe!! Our bureaucrats are at it again! When do we take back America??


3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My illegal students say the best way to halt the problems here has to be done three ways: First - build the fence to keep illegals out. Second - make all here register here and pay a fine. Third - those who waited patiently get in NOW!! Others who have been here less than three years has to go home and stand in line to get back in. Then ALL must learn and pass a test in English within two years! That would help things a lot!!

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Good stuff! Where have you been? We miss you at Starbucks.

John K.

3:34 PM  

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