Jon Feere is the Legal Policy Analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies.
A new advertisement has been created by FWD.us, a pro-amnesty advocacy group created by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. The ad was released by one of the group's offshoots called "Americans for a Conservative Direction", which attempts to persuade conservative voters to support amnesty and increased immigration. During last year's Senate amnesty debate the same group released a deceptive amnesty ad starring Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
The group is reported to have spent $750,000 on its latest ad which promotes the effort by some Republicans in the House of Representatives to come up with a new amnesty bill. The 30-second ad can be viewed in the video box below. The transcript of that ad (in bold) is analyzed below the video:
ANNOUNCER: "House Republicans have a conservative solution to fix our broken immigration system."
Last week House Speaker John Boehner released a one-page document entitled "Standards for Immigration Reform". The document is vague but calls for amnesty, more legal immigration, border security, and other agenda items. (It was analyzed by Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian.)
This 30-second ad created by FWD.us presents the House GOP leadership's vague principles as a concrete plan that conservative voters should get behind. Yet is it a bit of a stretch to call the plan a "conservative solution" since it ultimately amounts to allowing foreigners to violate our sovereignty, most of whom are unabashedly liberal. For this reason and others, many conservatives in and out of Congress have lined up against Speaker Boehner's push for "immigration reform" this year, including among others: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ted Cruz, Phil Gramm, John Cornyn, Phyllis Schlafly, Bill Kristol, Thomas Sowell, Ramesh Ponnuru, Andy McCarthy, Ross Douthat, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Peter Kirsanow, and Erick Erickson.
Most conservatives also argue that our immigration system is not "broken" as FWD.us suggests. A commitment to enforcing existing immigration laws would go a long way in both strengthening our immigration system and reducing illegal immigration. The amnesty that FWD.us supports would actually encourage illegal immigration and amount to abolishing the rule of law.
ANNOUNCER: "The plan, Step 1: Secure the border and tough employment verification."
Having a secure border is a basic component of any sovereign nation. Really, no legislation outside a funding bill should be needed. As the House GOP leadership's principles note, it is "the fundamental duty of any government to secure its borders". So why does Speaker Boehner feel the need to pass an amnesty as part of fulfilling this fundamental duty? In many ways it appears that these promises of enforcement are largely being used to justify amnesty.
The House GOP principles also note that after amnesty and border security are in place, "there will be a zero tolerance policy for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their visas in the future." But if Congress is willing to tolerate this lawlessness today and reward lawbreakers with amnesty, why would it not tolerate future lawlessness?
The 1986 comprehensive amnesty was supposed to be a one-time solution to the illegal immigration problem and the fact that politicians want to legalize to those who entered illegally since then indicates that Congress can't be trusted to not propose future amnesties.
The ad also mentions "tough employment verification". The House GOP principles outline calls for "implement[ing] a workable electronic employment verification system." But both the ad and the plan conspicuously avoid mention of the well-known and easy-to-use E-Verify (other than a visual image of E-Verify in this ad which may be an assumption on the part of the graphics department). This is an odd omission and suggests that the GOP might be embracing Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer's goal of scrapping E-Verify and creating a new workplace verification program that would inevitably delay workplace enforcement by many years.
ANNOUNCER: "Step 2: Anyone in America illegally undergoes a criminal background check."
Without an explanation of what happens to amnesty applicants whose background checks reveal criminal activity, this step is pointless. Does FWD.us support deportation of those who have committed crimes? Apparently not. The last ad produced by this group promoted the Senate's amnesty bill S.744 which made it clear that crimes like identity theft and vandalism were not considered serious enough to deny a person amnesty. In fact, two misdemeanors on an applicant's rap sheet would not result in legal status being denied; on top of that, multiple misdemeanors would be counted as "one" if they occurred on the same day. And any problematic history an illegal immigrant has in his home country is unlikely to be uncovered.
Even more problematic, because the Obama administration isn't prosecuting many of the crimes committed by illegal aliens, it is likely that many criminal aliens have clean backgrounds. For example, the average working illegal alien has engaged in identity theft, fraud, perjury, and possibly even Social Security fraud, depending on how the job was obtained. But these and many other crimes are a low priority according to the Obama administration's enforcement standards. Consequently many illegal aliens engaged in such crimes will appear to have a clean background despite the fact that their acts create real victims.
But what happens to those hardened criminal aliens who truly would not qualify for the amnesty the House GOP is apparently working on? When their application is rejected, it should result in ICE agents being immediately dispatched to the alien's address, or perhaps calling applicants in to inform them of the outcome of their applications and taking into custody those who are rejected. But never has Congress created a bill with such a pro-active plan. Rejected amnesty applicants simply remain in the country. Apparently FWD.us is okay with that.
And it is unclear where FWD.us came up with this background check plan anyhow — the House hasn't released any plan, just a set of "principles" that do not amount to much. The GOP has not proposed requiring background checks for "anyone in America illegally". The principles call for background checks for those illegal aliens applying for amnesty; illegal aliens who choose not to apply for amnesty (perhaps because they know they have an extensive criminal record) will never undergo a background check and will remain in the country illegally. That's quite different than what FWD.us is selling. This is yet another example of FWD.us attempting to mislead American voters.
ANNOUNCER: "Step 3: Pay fines, pay taxes, and learn English."
The House GOP's principles provide very little detail on these points, noting that amnesty applicants would have to "pay significant fines and back taxes" and "develop proficiency in English and American civics". These are similar to the requirements listed in the Senate amnesty bill, and each would be enforced in a way that makes them insignificant.
The requirement to pay fines likely sounds appealing to voters, yet neither FWD.us nor the House GOP has provided any details as to what such fines would look like. Considering that most illegal immigrants are not wealthy, the fine would likely be quite low. There is no reason to believe that failure to pay it would result in deportation. It is likely that the White House would simply offer waivers to those who could not afford to pay the fine (even though fines are, by definition, a form of punishment). In the Senate amnesty bill supported by FWD.us, any applicant who claimed they entered the United States prior to age 16 was exempted from the fine — regardless of their current age. All illegal aliens under age 21 were exempted. Plus, it was likely that some non-profits would be assisting applicants in paying the fines, perhaps with the use of taxpayer funds (the bill actually grants such groups $150 million to help illegal immigrants apply for the amnesty). In reality, the fine in the Senate bill was designed to not be of any significance to most amnesty applicants and there is no reason to believe that the House GOP is offering anything different.
Paying taxes is not going to be a prerequisite for receiving amnesty. It would be if a provision required applicants to pay back taxes as part of their application (and the check should be cashed regardless of whether or not the amnesty application is approved). But a back taxes provision was rejected by the Senate as it authored S.744 and FWD.us promoted that bill. Realistically, such a provision would be difficult to administer. Illegal aliens would have to know all of the fraudulent Social Security numbers they have ever used and also list the estimated income from any jobs they worked for which they were paid under the table. The honor system would play a significant role here, and in any event illegal aliens who make little money pay little in taxes. The House has not shown any serious interest in a back taxes provision, and they know that the Senate would strip the provision anyhow.
The requirement to learn English was included in the House GOP standards because people respond positively to the idea, but in practice it will likely amount to very little. The 1986 amnesty also required some applicants to "learn English," but attendance at a handful of classes was sufficient for the majority of them to meet this requirement. After the law's passage, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) weakened the language requirements administratively, substantially reducing the number of people who had to meet the requirement. The INS also decided that completing 40 hours of an English/civics program met the amnesty's requirements — clearly not enough time to actually learn a language.
The recent Senate amnesty bill supported by FWD.us simply required applicants to show that they are "satisfactorily pursuing a course of study" that would help them "achieve an understanding of English". The bill required no exams and did not ensure that illegal immigrants actually learned how to read and write English. There is no reason to believe that authors of the GOP principles have anything different in mind.
ANNOUNCER: "No amnesty. But a chance at the American Dream for those brought here as children."
Any bill that grants illegal aliens legal status and allows them to remain in the country is amnesty. That FWD.us is attempting to mislead the American people is not surprising, considering its previous deceptive pro-amnesty ad. The fact that FWD.us cannot bring itself to call an amnesty "amnesty" is clear evidence that they know the idea is unpopular with the American people.
The fact is, the House GOP leadership's immigration principles support allowing illegal aliens to "live legally" in the United States. (It should be noted that the GOP didn't use the legally-accurate term "illegal alien" but instead used the silly, activist-sounding phrase: "Individuals living outside the rule of law"). Allowing such individuals to obtain legal status means they receive work permits, Social Security accounts, and most of the benefits that are generally reserved for citizens. That is amnesty. And there is every reason to believe that these individuals will be able to obtain citizenship at a later date either because a future Congress extends such a benefit, or because the amnesty recipients avail themselves of current law (e.g., citizenship through marriage, or citizenship through sponsorship by a U.S.-born child).
The FWD.us ad also refers to legalizing children. Under the GOP principles guidelines, there would be two different amnesties: One would be a non-citizenship legal status for presumably adult illegal aliens, and the other would be full-citizenship for what the principles describe as "youth" who claim to have been "brought to this country as children through no fault of their own". Yet when it comes to amnesties that mirror the DREAM Act it is not always the case that beneficiaries are actually youths, i.e. people 17 years of age or younger. Some versions of the DREAM Act benefited people as old as 35 while other versions had no upper age limit. Furthermore, no version of the DREAM Act or Obama's lawless Deferred Action program requires amnesty applicants to prove they were actually "brought" to the country, meaning they may nonetheless be legally- and morally-culpable having entered illegally on their own volition as teenagers.
The difference between the two amnesties mentioned in the GOP principles may not matter anyhow. Under existing law, once the presumably younger legalized aliens become U.S. citizens they would have the right to legalize their parents — who would already be here living with the non-citizenship legal status offered in this "conservative" plan. Ultimately, it is amnesty for everyone.
ANNOUNCER: "Step by step, House Republicans want to fix the immigration problem which will strengthen our economy."
Interestingly, FWD.us says House Republicans want to fix the "immigration" problem — not the "illegal immigration" problem. Fixing the illegal immigration problem would mean deporting illegal immigrants. There's also the immigration problem of there being too much legal immigration at a time when millions of Americans of all skill sets are unemployed. But perhaps there's a message here. When open-border groups talk about an "immigration problem", they often mean that there is not enough legal immigration. They argue that the reason we have illegal immigration is because there aren't enough legal channels for people to come in through. They call for more visas to fix this problem. But that perspective rejects the idea that the United States has a right to limit immigration and also puts the interests of foreigners ahead of the interests of those already here.
When FWD.us calls for fixing "the immigration problem" it is hard not to interpret it as a call for more immigration. In fact, the GOP House principles mention more immigration, calling for more "visa and green card allocations" and "guestworker programs". But this ad doesn't mention that at all. These amnesty advocates seem to be aware that Americans are calling for less immigration, not a doubling of immigration as would have happened under the Senate amnesty bill pushed by FWD.us last year.
FWD.us also makes a significant, but unsupported claim that the House GOP's immigration principles would "strengthen our economy". While it is true that amnesty and increased immigration may make the economy larger, it does not necessarily follow that such policies make the economy stronger or American citizens wealthier. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyzed the Senate amnesty and found that because it would increase the population of unskilled and high-skilled aliens the plan would result in wages going down for American workers at the bottom and top of the labor market. The CBO estimates that average wages would be lowered for a decade through 2024 and possibly increase after that. The CBO did find that the average wages of legalized illegal aliens would go up at the outset, however.
This isn't surprising as Harvard economist George Borjas has previously found that for American workers, immigration is primarily a redistributive policy. The presence of all immigrant workers (legal and illegal) in the labor market makes the U.S. economy (GDP) an estimated 11 percent larger ($1.6 trillion) each year. This "contribution" to the aggregate economy, however, does not measure the net benefit to the native-born population. Of the $1.6 trillion increase in GDP, 97.8 percent goes to the immigrants themselves in the form of wages and benefits. The remainder is equal to $35 billion a year — or about 0.2 percent of the total GDP in the United States.
On top of that, the immigration surplus of $35 billion comes from reducing the wages of natives in competition with immigrants by an estimated $402 billion a year, while increasing profits or the incomes of users of immigrants by an estimated $437 billion.
So while it is true that illegal aliens and their employers would benefit from an amnesty, that alone does not make the U.S. economy stronger.
In all, Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us is once again promoting a mass immigration and amnesty plan that will not benefit the average American.