Not a Dime’s Worth of Difference

By Mark Krikorian on April 10, 2007

National Review Online, April 10, 2007

The president visited the Mexican border again this week, in yet another vain attempt to "revive his stalled efforts to overhaul U.S. immigration laws." The substance of his comments was just warmed-up leftovers, couched in the same old phrases: "comprehensive immigration reform," "family values did not stop at the Rio Grande," "they're doing jobs Americans are not doing," "I oppose amnesty," "a practical answer that lies between granting automatic citizenship to every illegal immigrant and deporting every illegal immigrant," and so on.

This isn't going to work any better than his many previous attempts to relaunch the amnesty push. But the evolving White House proposal, details of which were leaked recently, is illustrative nonetheless.

In a last-ditch effort to get amnesty moving through Congress, the administration is trying come up with a plan that a majority of Senate Republicans will back (the bill approved last year passed only because of overwhelming Democratic support). The specifics of this effort show how the administration appears to have internalized the open-borders side's caricature of amnesty opponents as mean spirited, foreigner hating, Know Nothing troglodytes, and has crafted its immigration proposal accordingly.

For instance, the White House draft first adopts, and then supersizes, the old McCain-Kennedy bill's idea of illegals paying a fine to get amnesty. Illegals would be able to work legally under three-year "Z visas," but they would have to pay $3,500 each time, and a whopping $10,000 to try to get a green card (potentially leading to citizenship). Given new research by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation showing that the average low-skilled household (immigrant or native) earns only about $20,000 a year, this would simply be a way of preventing amnestied illegals from ever becoming Americans.

Likewise with the White House proposal for "Y visas" for future foreign-workers. The workers entering as part of this new - and potentially unlimited - immigration flow would not be permitted to bring family members and would never become members of our society, creating a pure Saudi-style guestworker society, with a large and growing class of servile laborers.

In effect, the administration seems to be saying to immigration hawks: "Look, we hate foreigners as much as you do, so trust us!" One shudders to think what an increasingly desperate White House will come up with next as an inducement for conservative support for amnesty; maybe illegals will have to "earn" their new status by chopping off a pinkie finger, or plucking out one of their eyes?

Of course, the president doesn't actually support any of this - his views on immigration are indistinguishable from those of Ted Kennedy. This is boob bait for immigration hawks, offered to lure enough lawmakers into accepting amnesty and immigration increases in principle, so that negotiations on the price can begin.

But it's all a charade. The problem with the various immigration proposals is not that they're not punitive enough; the problem is that they would legalize illegals and increase immigration. In this sense, all the plans being offered are the same in their two essential characteristics - they let the illegals stay and admit even more in the future. Everything else is just window dressing, and some of it pretty ugly window dressing.

What immigration hawks actually want is steady, predictable, unapologetic enforcement of the laws, with an eye toward downsizing the illegal population through attrition, as more and more illegals give up and deport themselves. This would, of course, cause hardship for illegals and their employers, but it would be hardship with a purpose - to reassert control over the immigration system and establish legal status as a labor standard.

The administration's calculation that it can make amnesty and increased immigration palatable if only they are packaged with enough anti-immigrant measures is an insult to immigration hawks. Our response must be unequivocal: No Amnesty. No Guestworkers. Period.

Mark Krikorian is Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.