Harvesting Illegals

By Mark Krikorian on April 8, 2005

FrontPageMagazine.com, April 8, 2005

More than 1,500 of our soldiers in Iraq have given their lives to ensure America's safety. An emergency military spending bill to keep their comrades supplied with bullets and gasoline passed the House of Representatives last month with the addition of several important domestic security measures, including national standards for state driver's licenses.

The Senate will debate the bill next week, and is considering an addition of its own: amnesty for illegal aliens.

I am not making this up. For several years now, Sen. Larry Craig has teamed up with Sen. Ted Kennedy to relentlessly push the AgJobs bill (the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act, currently S. 359), which would grant amnesty to most illegal alien farmworkers, and their families (plus admit many, many more through a harmful "temporary" worker program). Estimates are that as many as three million illegals could take advantage of this amnesty.

Sen. Craig has said he intends to offer his amnesty as an amendment when the military spending bill is considered next week on the Senate floor. His hope is that if his amnesty is added to the Senate version of the bill it will be too difficult for pro-borders Republicans in the House to kill it when the two bodies meet to reconcile the different versions of the bill.

There's so much wrong with this it's hard to know where to start. Firstly, regardless of the merits of bill, it's simply irresponsible to hold up an emergency spending measure for an extensive debate on something as momentous as an illegal alien amnesty - and equally irresponsible to pass such an amnesty without extensive debate.

And there's little merit to the Craig-Kennedy amnesty anyway. Supporters of the bill tell the soothing fairytale that this measure will help solve the illegal immigration problem, but this is a fairy tale we've heard before. Congress passed a "one-time-only" amnesty in 1986, and it supercharged illegal immigration, giving us an illegal population that is now twice as large as before the amnesty.

There was a farmworker component of that 1986 amnesty, too, which turned out to be possibly the most fraud-ridden government program in history. The story of that earlier amnesty would make you laugh if you weren't crying. It became routine to hear applicants claiming to have harvested purple cotton, or dug cherries out of the ground, or picked watermelons from trees. But the political pressure to grant amnesty to as many people as possible was so intense, that only a handful of applications were rejected. In the end, the number of "farmworkers" legalized exceeded the total number of actual farmworkers in the whole country.

We would be guaranteed more of the same this time, because the Craig-Kennedy amnesty has even fewer safeguards than the 1986 amnesty.

And this isn't just an abstract matter of following the rules. Among the hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who were fraudulently legalized was one Mahmoud "The Red" Abouhalima, an Egyptian illegal alien cabbie in New York. It was only after he got his green card in the 1986 amnesty that he had the ability to travel to Afghanistan for terrorist training and then return to help plan the first World Trade Center attack, for which he is serving life in prison. Do we really want to find out what kinds of bad guys the next amnesty will legalize, enabling them to work and travel freely, preying on our society?

And, last but not least, the Craig-Kennedy amnesty would cost the Treasury billions. Illegal aliens get few public benefits on their own, but they do collect them on behalf of their U.S.-born citizen children, for a net cost to the federal government alone of $10 billion per year. When they get amnesty, their incomes (and thus tax payments) go up a little, but their use of government services balloons, because they are now eligible. Our estimate is that amnesty for all illegals would nearly triple the cost to Washington, to $29 billion per year.

The irony is exquisite. The same measure that would enable our soldiers to defend the borders of a newly free Iraq would also undermine our own borders. Mahmoud the Red is laughing from his prison cell.

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