Tennessean.com, July 2, 2010
President Obama’s speech Thursday did not add anything to the immigration debate. He tried to make a case for the same package that amnesty advocates have been offering for years now: legal status for illegal immigrants and increased future legal immigration in exchange for promises of enforcement in the future. He announced no new initiatives, no bills about to be introduced, no executive branch action. It was just another serving of the same rhetoric.
But more important than the lack of news is the broader question: Is such a package deal a good idea or not? The answer is “no.” There are many aspects to the issue, but let’s look at just two:
First, the promises of future enforcement are hollow. Everyone understands that as soon as the amnesty portion of the package deal is completed, the enforcement part will be abandoned. This is precisely what happened to the 1986 amnesty, and as the old saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
In fact, this administration is doing every thing it can to signal to the public that it is deeply ambivalent about enforcing immigration laws. It has stopped raids on work sites employing illegal immigrants, it is threatening Arizona for its attempt to buttress federal law, and it even requested a cut in the border patrol; at least, until it saw 60 percent support among the public for Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigrants.
How they could think any one would trust them to enforce the law in the future, to avoid another 11 million illegal immigrants, is beyond me.
Immigrants take away jobs
Secondly, the president made no mention of the millions of Americans harmed by low-skilled immigration. His speech rightly pointed to the unfairness of letting illegal immigrants stay while prospective legal immigrants wait abroad patiently — and legally — for their turn. But what about the unfairness to the millions of less-skilled Americans whose jobs illegal immigrants have taken and whose wages they’ve bid down?
It’s true that most Americans don’t compete with illegal immigrants for work, but millions do. Listening to the president’s speech, you’d never know that the job less rate for less-educated and young American workers is twice the national average — 20 percent. Is it really true that none of those people would work in construction or in landscaping or in hotels or restaurants? In fact, virtually all job categories are dominated by native-born workers, so there is no such thing as a job Americans won’t do.
Instead of Obama’s package of amnesty and increased immigration now in exchange for the possibility of enforcement in the future, we need enforcement first and no promises about an amnesty in the future.
Across-the-board enforcement (some thing we’ve never really tried), sustained for eight or 10 years, will result in a substantial reduction in the illegal-immigrant population, as fewer new people sneak in and more who are already here decide to get right with the law and go home. In fact, we’ve already seen the total illegal-immigrant population drop by perhaps 15 per cent since 2007, a trend that began before the start of the recession and was started by the enforce ment measures under taken at the end of the Bush administration.
Only when the political class has proven its commitment to sustained enforce ment can amnesty be considered. Until then, enforcement first.