There is hardly a public issue less understood than immigration policy. Yet its political impact will decide every public policy—jobs, healthcare, taxes, gun-control, government spending, everything—because it will determine the future electorate. But our immigration policies are based largely on emotion rather than fact and logic, and on deadly political myths rather than truth. Let us examine three of the most popular and dangerous myths that imperil our nation.
Myth 1. Border Security will fix the problem.
Just securing the border will NOT prevent massive illegal immigration. According to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), at least 30 to 40 percent of illegal immigrants enter the country by obtaining legal work, study, tourist, and other temporary visas and then throwing them in the trash and staying in the country indefinitely. According to the Pew Hispanic Institute, more recent illegal entry by visa violation is running close to 50 percent of the total. For decades, the United States has exercised only meager and occasional internal control of who is coming, going, or staying. Once in the country, internal enforcement of immigration law is essentially don’t-ask-don’t-tell except when serious crimes are committed. In fact, because of politically motivated overly zealous civil rights concerns, internal immigration control has been actively discouraged.
Given our negligible and reluctant enforcement of visa laws, sneaking across the U.S. border is increasingly unnecessary for illegal immigrants. Securing the border is necessary, but unless it is accompanied by strong internal enforcement of immigration laws, we have an effectively open-border immigration policy.
The 1987 Amnesty, actually passed by Congress and signed (with considerable reservation) by President Reagan on November 6, 1986, contained many promises of tough-minded internal immigration control, particularly to protect jobs for U.S workers. But as soon as it was passed, these promises were ignored. Internal immigration enforcement, in fact, became progressively dismantled as politicians pandered to ethnic voting blocks and commercial demands for cheaper and easier-to-get imported labor.
Reagan later told his Attorney General Ed Meese that signing the 1987 Amnesty was the greatest mistake of his eight years in the presidency.
Beware of political leaders who emphasize only border security to control illegal immigration. They should know better. My purpose in writing this is that the voters do know better.
Myth 2. Illegal Immigrant workers benefit the economy.
Employment is the great magnet for illegal immigration. Many CIS studies and the work of Harvard labor economist George Borjas confirm that, although there are many notable exceptions, taken as a whole the last several decades of immigrants are not really adding to the economy. They add to the profits of those who employ cheap imported labor, but they are displacing American workers, and their numbers are creating an excess labor supply driving American wages down. This is particularly acute for Americans with a high school education or less and becoming a problem at higher skill levels. That is the reason American workers are not benefiting from top-line economic growth. As Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation has pointed out, the excessive number of unskilled and poorly educated immigrants—about 80 percent of the total—has created a considerable fiscal drag on federal, state, and local governments, and taxpayers. The Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates this to be about $100 billion per year considering ONLY education, healthcare, and law enforcement. There are other significant but less easily quantified burdens impacting society as well.
The American middle class has grown when labor scarcities have driven real wages higher. This has created opportunities for upgrading skills, (useful) education, prosperity, and investment, while at the same time driving innovation. Contrary to President Obama’s eloquent confusion, amnesty and the massive increases in additional legal and illegal immigration that follow it are totally inconsistent with middle class prosperity.
Beware of those who claim high levels of unskilled labor importation are necessary for the economy. Follow the money and the political motives.
Myth 3. Republicans can win Hispanic votes by favoring amnesty and squishy immigration enforcement.
Barack Obama owes his 2008 and certainly his 2012 election to dim-witted and corrupt immigration policies going back as far as 1965. The 2012 election revealed that out-of-control immigration was at least near the tipping point of changing the electorate to a Democrat dominated social-welfare constituency.
The 1965 Immigration Act put aside a sane policy allowing immigration preference to spouses, children, and sometimes parents to one extending the preference to an unending chain of siblings, in-laws, and their families. The impact changed the character of U.S. immigration. This “Chain Migration” resulted in massive legal and illegal immigration almost exclusively from third-world countries. Whole villages from India and Mexico immigrated to the United States. The new wave of immigrants was predominantly less educated and less skilled than previous immigrants. Rapidly increasing legal and illegal immigration and amnesties began to create an electoral constituency heavily favoring Democrat social-welfare and tax policies.
The 1986 Immigration Reform Control Act proposed about 1.1 million amnesties. Political pressures and wanton document fraud (at least 25 percent), resulted in a total of 2.7 million amnesties. It was followed by six supplementary amnesties from 1994 to 2000 with more than 3.0 million additional amnesties. President Obama recently gave an unlawful administrative amnesty to over one million illegals. The cumulative effect has been more voters who are primarily attracted to the Democratic Party’s social-welfare spending programs.
Recent immigration history also indicates that Republicans do not improve their Hispanic vote by favoring, sponsoring, or signing amnesties. They actually do worse as Bush I and McCain experienced in 1988 and 2008. Hispanics consistently vote 60 to 75 percent for big-government social-welfare candidates. Republicans are not going to make a constituency that favors Obamacare by a whopping 69 to 23 percent margin into Republicans by becoming immigration squishes.
Republican failure to oppose immigration policies that have built a huge Democrat-leaning social-welfare constituency has resulted in the position they are in now. If Texas goes Democrat on Hispanic votes, Republicans can never win a Presidential election again except by out-welfaring and out-pandering the Democrats. But voting for amnesty or other cowardly immigration policies will only make certain the Republican loss of Texas and many other states in 2016. Even worse, they will have lost the confidence and respect of their conservative base, imploding the party from within. Motivating their conservative constituency, not surrendering their principles, is the only honorable and promising path. A hard and principled fight is altogether preferable to amnesty-suicide.