The Great Border Distraction

Like the cavalry riding to the rescue, the Corker-Hoeven 1192 page amendment is purportedly the "magic bullet" to salvage the Rubio-Schumer amnesty bill (S 744). The unstated objective is to make border security the focal point of the bill and the sole criterion on which to judge its viability. The premise is that if you can fix the border security problem then the rest of the bill can go sailing through with 70 or more votes from the Senate. It is a cynical, dishonest, orchestrated distraction by both parties to divert attention from what they really want to achieve with this bill. Despite being a pork-filled, flawed amendment that does little to enhance border security, Republican senators are jumping on the amnesty bandwagon as they now have the perceived political cover to vote for the "fixed" bill.

Even if the border were hermetically sealed, there are other elements in this bill that are far more destructive and damaging to this nation than a porous border. Both parties have essentially reached a general consensus on the rest of the bill because it achieves their real objectives for proposing the bill in the first place -- and it has nothing to do with border security. The sense of urgency to pass the bill has more to do with pleasing their corporate masters and other interest groups and political positioning for the 2014 midterms than real immigration reform that serves the best interests of the country and our citizens.

President Obama and the Democrats have been quite clear about what they really want from the legislation, i.e., immediate legalization and a path to citizenship for the 11 million (or more) illegal aliens already here -- their sine qua non for any immigration reform bill. The Rubio-Schumer bill legalizes immediately all those who arrived here prior to December 31, 2011, provides them with work permits and SSNs, and puts them on a path to "earned citizenship." They can also sponsor tens of millions more legal immigrants through chain migration, i.e., family reunification. Any legislation that allows the lawbreakers to stay and work here, the object of their crimes, is amnesty. Citizenship is just the cherry on top.

This bill ensures that the kinship-based system vice a merit-based one remains the way we prioritize who fills most of the 1.2 million annual slots for legal permanent immigrants. We will continue to bring in hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers (25% of the adults lack even a high school degree) with only about a quarter having any college education. More than 50% of the 11 million receiving amnesty are high school dropouts. They will be an increasing burden on our social safety net. Immigrants, legal and illegal, use welfare programs to a much higher degree than the native born. And they vote Democrat by more than two to one. Every ten years we have what amounts to an amnesty through our legal immigration policies.The status quo will make the Democrats the permanent majority party. Amnesty just hastens the process.

In June 2009 Eliseo Medina, then international executive vice-president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), flush with the 2008 Obama victory, gave a chilling recitation of how an amnesty would further the progressive agenda."We reform the immigration laws, it puts 12 million people on the path to citizenship and eventually voters," Medina said. He reminded the audience that during the presidential election in November 2008, Latinos and immigrants "voted overwhelmingly for progressive candidates. Barack Obama got two out of every three voters that showed up."

Can you imagine if we have, even the same ratio, two out of three? Can you imagine 8 million new voters who care about our issues and will be voting? We will be creating a governing coalition for the long term, not just for an election cycle.

Medina doesn't even include the tens of millions of family members who will be joining the 11 million (or more) receiving amnesty in his calculations. Union leaders have endorsed the Rubio-Schumer amnesty even though it will result in higher unemployment and reduced wages for their members. The trade-offs are increased union membership and more importantly, having a seat at the table of the permanent majority party. Laws and policies can be changed to strengthen and expand the power of the unions in the new America forged by the Democrats.

For the Democrats, border security is just a bargaining chip to get what they want, i.e., immediate legalization, a path to citizenship, and increased legal immigration comprised primarily of the unskilled and uneducated. Obama and Hillary Clinton signed the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which was subsequently changed and neutered. Any so-called concessions by the Democrats will be changed by future Congresses. However, amnesty is forever.

So what's in it for the Republicans? Their main objective is an expanded guest worker program that will bring in more skilled labor and agricultural workers. The American Chamber of Commerce, agribusiness, and prominent business leaders like Rupert Murdoch, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and many others want to open the floodgates to import more foreign labor, which will drive down labor costs and increase profits. Follow the money.

The Chamber was able to strike a Faustian bargain with the labor unions that satisfies both of their interests. As a result, the Rubio-Schumer bill doubles the number of guest workers increasing temporary work visas by 1.6 million the first year and 600,000 a year thereafter. H-1B visas will be almost tripled to 170,000 a year. The bill creates some new visa categories including one that allows 5,000 annual work visas from each of the 31 countries that have free trade agreements with the United States or an additional 155,000 work visas a year. The bill gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretion to waive these limits if demand is high.

The Corker-Hoeven amendment will be portrayed as a victory for Republicans and a major concession by the Democrats. It is all political theater to distract from the devastating impact this bill will have on American workers -- unskilled and skilled. Both parties have abandoned the American worker. At one time we were told that immigrants do jobs Americans won't (a lie) do. Now we must bring in more skilled workers to do jobs Americans can't (another lie) do. As one of Rubio aides so artfully put it:

There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can't cut it. There shouldn't be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer. There are people who just can't get it, can't do it, don't want to do it. And so you can't obviously discuss that publicly.

During the decade ending in 2010, 13.9 million legal immigrants entered this country, the highest number in our history. During that same period we had a net loss of 400,000 jobs. The Rubio-Schumer bill will more than double that record-setting intake over the next ten years, admitting at least 33 million more permanent legal immigrants and millions more guest workers at a time when over 20 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Obviously, our political elites cannot talk about that publicly.

Michael McLaughlin is Vice President of the American Council for Immigration Reform.


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