Jewish World Review Dec. 29, 2003 / 4 Teves, 5764
Immigration needs stricter, not looser, controls
President Bush in his year-end news conference called for an "immigration policy that helps match any willing employer with any willing employee." We already know there are plenty employers in this country willing to break the law and hire illegal aliens. And there are 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens already living in this country, so we know there are plenty of willing employees.
I'm sure the White House staff will clean up the language a bit in the coming months. But for all the world, the president sounds like his idea of an immigration policy is a national job-fair for those businesses and farms that don't want to pay a living wage and for those foreigners who correctly think U.S. border security is a joke and who are willing to break our laws to live in this country.
President Bush's plan, which would permit immigrants to legally cross the border if they have a job waiting, would be the most aggressive immigration reform since the controversial bill signed by President Reagan in 1986 granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. The 1986 amnesty was widely criticized for rewarding illegal behavior and virtually ignoring those who had been waiting for legal entry into the United States.
And now there are those in Congress who want to simply make illegal aliens legal. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is sponsoring "The Border Security and Immigration Improvement Act," which would make it easier for foreign workers seeking U.S. employment opportunities and simplify the permanent residency application process.
Similar legislation, "The Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act of 2003," is sponsored by Sen. Larry E. Craig, R-Idaho, and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and would allow undocumented farmworkers and their families to qualify for permanent residency after a specific tenure of work.
And Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has introduced legislation called "The Dream Act" that would allow states the ability to grant in-state tuition to children of illegal aliens. Meanwhile, out-of-state legal parents of legal residents would get no such break.
Each of these politicians is doing nothing more than pandering to the business and agricultural lobbies, and none of these legislative initiatives addresses the economic and social impact of their passage. Powerful lobbying groups have a lot to gain from illegal immigration, while the burden of the real costs of illegal immigration fall on the rest of us who pay our taxes.
Over the past 10 years, more than 2 million low-skill American workers have been displaced from their jobs. And each 10 percent increase in immigrant workers decreases American wages by 3.5 percent.
Steve Camarota, of the Center for Immigration, says our lawmakers don't understand what unchecked illegal immigration is doing to our workforce: "To them it looks like immigrants are doing jobs nobody wants. But what they really mean is that they are doing jobs that they as middle- and upper-class people don't want."
The average working American knows what our political leadership is ignoring. Illegal immigration carries a steep cost to society. States spend more than $7 billion each year on K-12 education for illegal aliens and hundreds of millions more in treating illegal aliens in our hospitals in border states.
More than three-quarters of Americans say we need stricter controls on immigration in this country. However, a Chicago Council on Foreign Relations survey found that only 14 percent of our political leaders agreed that current immigration levels represent a critical threat. I can think of no issue on which there is greater disconnect between our political leaders and the American middle class than on the issue of illegal immigration.
Congress and the president must create a national immigration policy that is far more than a job fair for illegal aliens and gift of citizenship to those who break our laws. We desperately need a national immigration policy that is effective in securing our borders and is rational both economically and socially.
The only way we can meet those goals is for our politicians to rise above pandering to lobbyists, special interests and voting groups and to talk honestly about the issues that now confront us. Don't hold your breath.
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