When, exactly, did the U.S. people askfor this huge burden to be placed on their local services & tax base? When did we ask our lawmakers to open the nation’s doors to tens of millions of low-skilled immigrants, paying low levels of tax, and making big demands on our welfare services? When did we insist that people who have come into our country illegally, and stolen the Social Security numbers of citizens in order to get work, be eligible for Social Security benefits based on those stolen numbers? (Yes, that is actually in CIRA.) And that, just as the social security funding system is heading into major crisis? When did we ask for legal immigration numbers to be tripled? When?
Good grief. One hardly knows where to start.
Let’s take it slowly, folk.
—-"They have to pay a fine.” Less, in many cases, than what they paid the smugglers to bring them in.
—-"They have to undergo a criminal background check.” Don’t worry, folks, we have complete access to the criminal justice databases of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc. …. Which, by the way, are scrupulously maintained. We have their governments’ assurances on that. Oh, and we have the several million federal investigators needed to carry out those background checks already under training, and their salaries and expenses all appropriated in Congress.
—-"They have to pay back taxes.” Based on their own, unverifiable statements about how many crumpled dollar bills were pressed into their hands at the end of each day’s work. (Are they allowed to deduct the cut they pay to the jefe? Come to think of it: is the smuggler’s fee tax-deductible?) And note, note well, poor citizen: They only have to pay taxes on three of the past five years. This is a deal YOU CANNOT GET. “IRS” now stands for “Immigrant Relief and Sustenance.”
—-"They have to learn English.” No they don’t. They have to show they have signed up for an ESL (English as Second Language) course, that’s all. They don’t have to, like, attend. Test of proficiency? There’s supposed to be one already for citizenship. Friend, I have attended two citizenship ceremonies (me, wife). There were people taking the oath who could barely manage “Hello.” One of the new citizens could not understand any of the Marshal’s instructions; fortunately he had a relative at hand to translate them into Cantonese for him.
—-"They have to go to the back of the line.” What line? The only line that matters to illegal immigrants is the one for lawful U.S. residence. (You know, the one Filipinos wait 24 years on, sitting back home in Manila.) And even that line doesn’t matter to them any more because THEY ARE ALREADY HERE. Citizenship? Eh, maybe… mañana. The kids got it by birth, that’s the main thing. And jury duty is, you know, a real drag.
There, in fact, you have what is perhaps CIRA’s most glaring weakness: its utter failure to take any account of immigrant psychology. Given this particular set of sticks and carrots, how will immigrants behave? Nobody in the Senate, so far as I can see, has given a moment’s thought to this. Lots of illegal immigrants, for example, will rationally choose to remain illegal, trusting—surely correctly—that business groups will swiftly gut the employer-sanction provisions, as they did after 1986, and that by being illegal, a worker can undercut the wages of legal residents. As they do now.
Similarly with employer psychology. Which, among other things, may mean Adios, Mexicanos! If a sweatshop employer cartel can bring in planeloads of workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, or Ethiopia, for half what Mexicans cost, do you think they won’t? They will. Current GDP per capita in Mexico—-around $6,000. In Ethiopia—-around $100. You want “willing workers"? We got ‘em.
I’m just scratching the surface here. The stupidity and rottenness of CIRA is really beyond the ability of a single human mind to encompass it.
And for Republicans, the most shocking, most shameful thing of all, is that this act to vastly swell the number of future Democratic voters, to bring about “the greatest expansion of the welfare state in 35 years” (Robert Rector), to kick working-class Americans in the teeth, to render meaningless the very concepts of our nation and our citizenship — in fact, to shove U.S. citizens off the sidewalk so that foreigners can be awarded special privilieges not available to us — this appalling monstrosity was cheered through by a Republican Senate at the urging of a Republican president. For shame, for shame, for shame.
I will not vote for any politician who helped pass this bill; I will not vote for any politician who says so much as a word in its favor — make that a syllable — and I will not even vote for any politician who agrees to go into conference on this horror.