Illegal aliens and their advocates marching in L.A. today
As pro-illegal immigration forces organize mass protests in favor of “Mexico! Mexico!” and against stricter border security, President Bush is pushing his guest-worker/amnesty plan hard this weekend. His radio address today was filled with open borders-friendly platitudes (audio and transcript of the address, you’ll notice, are available in Spanish at the White House website). Here are two:
“America is a nation of immigrants, and we’re also a nation of laws.”
“…As we debate the immigration issue, we must remember there are hard-working individuals, doing jobs that Americans will not do, who are contributing to the economic vitality of our country.“
We are not a “nation of immigrants.” This is both a factual error and a warm-and-fuzzy non sequitur. Eighty-five percent of the residents currently in the United States were born here. Sure, we are almost all descendants of immigrants. But we are not a “nation of immigrants.”
(Isn’t it funny, by the way, how the politically correct multiculturalists who claim we are a “nation of immigrants” are sooo insensitive toward Native American Indians, Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians, and descendants of black slaves who did not “immigrate” here in any common sense of the word?)
Even if we were a “nation of immigrants,” it does not explain why we should be against sensible immigration control.
And if the open borders advocates would actually read American history instead of revising it, they would see that the founding fathers were emphatically insistent on protecting the country against indiscriminate mass immigration.
· George Washington, in a letter to John Adams, stated that immigrants should be absorbed into American life so that “by an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, measures, laws: in a word soon become one people.”
· In a 1790 speech to Congress on the naturalization of immigrants, James Madison stated that America should welcome the immigrant who could assimilate, but exclude the immigrant who could not readily “incorporate himself into our society.”
· Alexander Hamilton wrote in 1802: “The safety of a republic depends essentially on the energy of a common national sentiment; on a uniformity of principles and habits; on the exemption of the citizens from foreign bias, and prejudice; and on that love of country which will almost invariably be found to be closely connected with birth, education, and family.”
· Hamilton further warned that “The United States have already felt the evils of incorporating a large number of foreigners into their national mass; by promoting in different classes different predilections in favor of particular foreign nations, and antipathies against others, it has served very much to divide the community and to distract our councils. It has been often likely to compromise the interests of our own country in favor of another. The permanent effect of such a policy will be, that in times of great public danger there will be always a numerous body of men, of whom there may be just grounds of distrust; the suspicion alone will weaken the strength of the nation, but their force may be actually employed in assisting an invader.”
· The survival of the American republic, Hamilton maintained, depends upon “the preservation of a national spirit and a national character.” “To admit foreigners indiscriminately to the rights of citizens, the moment they foot in our country would be nothing less than to admit the Grecian horse into the citadel of our liberty and sovereignty.”
We are not a nation of immigrants. We are first and foremost a nation of laws. The U.S. Constitution does not say that the paramount duty of government is to “Celebrate Diversity” or to “embrace multiculturalism” or to give “every willing worker” in the world a job. The Premable to the U.S. Constitution says the Constitution was established “to provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.”
As our founding fathers recognized, fulfilling these fundamental duties is impossible without an orderly immigration and entrance system that discriminates in favor of those willing, as George Washington put it, to “get assimilated to our customs, measures, [and] laws.”
As for President Bush’s claims about illegal immigrants doing the “jobs Americans won’t do” and boosting the country’e “economic vitality,” it seems the White House has still not read Robert Samuelson’s definitive rejoinder.
Guest workers would mainly legalize today’s vast inflows of illegal immigrants, with the same consequence: We’d be importing poverty. This isn’t because these immigrants aren’t hardworking; many are. Nor is it because they don’t assimilate; many do. But they generally don’t go home, assimilation is slow and the ranks of the poor are constantly replenished. Since 1980 the number of Hispanics with incomes below the government’s poverty line (about $19,300 in 2004 for a family of four) has risen 162 percent. Over the same period, the number of non-Hispanic whites in poverty rose 3 percent and the number of blacks, 9.5 percent. What we have now — and would with guest workers — is a conscious policy of creating poverty in the United States while relieving it in Mexico. By and large, this is a bad bargain for the United States. It stresses local schools, hospitals and housing; it feeds social tensions (witness the Minutemen). To be sure, some Americans get cheap housecleaning or landscaping services. But if more mowed their own lawns or did their own laundry, it wouldn’t be a tragedy.
The most lunatic notion is that admitting more poor Latino workers would ease the labor market strains of retiring baby boomers. The two aren’t close substitutes for each other. Among immigrant Mexican and Central American workers in 2004, only 7 percent had a college degree and nearly 60 percent lacked a high school diploma, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Among native-born U.S. workers, 32 percent had a college degree and only 6 percent did not have a high school diploma. Far from softening the social problems of an aging society, more poor immigrants might aggravate them by pitting older retirees against younger Hispanics for limited government benefits.
It’s a myth that the U.S. economy “needs” more poor immigrants. The illegal immigrants already here represent only about 4.9 percent of the labor force, the Pew Hispanic Center reports. In no major occupation are they a majority. They’re 36 percent of insulation workers, 28 percent of drywall installers and 20 percent of cooks. They’re drawn here by wage differences, not labor “shortages.” In 2004, the median hourly wage in Mexico was $1.86, compared with $9 for Mexicans working in the United States, said Rakesh Kochhar of Pew. With high labor turnover in the jobs they take, most new illegal immigrants can get work by accepting wages slightly below prevailing levels.
Hardly anyone thinks that most illegal immigrants will leave. But what would happen if new illegal immigration stopped and wasn’t replaced by guest workers? Well, some employers would raise wages to attract U.S. workers. Facing greater labor costs, some industries would — like the tomato growers in the 1960s — find ways to minimize those costs. As to the rest, what’s wrong with higher wages for the poorest workers? From 1994 to 2004, the wages of high school dropouts rose only 2.3 percent (after inflation) compared with 11.9 percent for college graduates.
President Bush says his guest worker program would “match willing foreign workers with willing American employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs.” But at some higher wage, there would be willing Americans. The number of native high school dropouts with jobs declined by 1.3 million from 2000 to 2005, estimates Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors less immigration. Some lost jobs to immigrants. Unemployment remains high for some groups (9.3 percent for African Americans, 12.7 percent for white teenagers).
Business organizations understandably support guest worker programs. They like cheap labor and ignore the social consequences. What’s more perplexing is why liberals, staunch opponents of poverty and inequality, support a program that worsens poverty and inequality. Poor immigrant workers hurt the wages of unskilled Americans. The only question is how much. Studies suggest a range “from negligible to an earnings reduction of almost 10 percent,” according to the CBO.
It’s said that having guest workers is better than having poor illegal immigrants. With legal status, they’d have rights and protections. They’d have more peace of mind and face less exploitation by employers. This would be convincing if its premise were incontestable: that we can’t control our southern border. But that’s unproved. We’ve never tried a policy of real barriers and strict enforcement against companies that hire illegal immigrants. Until that’s shown to be ineffective, we shouldn’t adopt guest worker programs that don’t solve serious social problems — but add to them.
Is the White House capable of responding to these realities without accusing its critics of xenophobia, racism, and immigrant-bashing?
Programming note: I’ll be on Fox News’s Big Story tonight debating immigration policy. Approx. 10pm EST.
Afterword: Both host Greg Kelly and open-borders advocate Enrique Morones asserted that H.R. 4437 would make illegal immigration a felony crime. But as I noted, this is incorrect. The original version of the bill did include such a provision, but it was dropped in mid-December before the final version passed.
***update/correction: I was wrong. ***
E-mail from a legislative analyst who tracks immigration:
I just noticed the note you posted about whether HR 4437 makes unlawful presence a felony. In fact, it DOES. Sensenbrenner tried to reduce it to a misdemeanor in a floor amendment, but the DEMS voted against the amendment in the hopes that maintaining the provision would kill the bill (or at least feed these ridiculous marches), and enough Republicans were confused about why Sensenbrenner would try to “weaken” the provision in the original bill and so voted against the amendment that it failed. You’ll find that Sec. 203 of the bill, as passed by the House, changes the penalty for illegal entry and unlawful presence to imprisonment of “one year and one day.” That makes it a felony.
Sure would be good to point out, though, that the provision is only there thanks to the Dems.
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