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June 21, 2013

Unintended Consequences

While the Senate hotly debates the amnesty and border security aspects of Senate Bill 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, they fail to even mention the many as equally onerous aspects of the bill. Section 6, 2A of the bill establishes a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund to be funded by transfer from the treasury general funds of 6.5 billion dollars. All fees collected under this bill – and there are many – will be placed in this trust fund. The fund will be under the direction of the Secretary of Homeland Security with some of the funds delegated for border security and enforcement. As the American People have seen with the Social Security Trust Fund there is ample opportunity for abuse when large amounts of money are made available to government agencies with little or no oversight. Section 2106 allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide grants to "eligible public or private nonprofit organizations that will use the funding to assist eligible applicants,” in meeting the requirements to obtain Registered Provisional Immigrant status. The Secretary is authorized under this section to use 50 million dollars out of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund to establish this grant program. According to this section of the bill:

“The term ‘eligible public or private nonprofit’ means a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, including a community, faith-based or other immigrant-serving organization, whose staff has demonstrated qualifications, experience, and expertise in providing quality services to immigrants, refugees, persons granted asylum, or persons applying for such statuses.”

With the IRS scandal of today and previous ACORN scandals can the American People have any confidence that this taxpayer money will be used for appropriate purposes and not as a political tool?

Perhaps the most disturbing of all the provisions of the bill are buried in Subtitle B, the Agricultural Worker program. Currently the state of Washington has the highest minimum wage at $9.19/hour and the states of Georgia and Wyoming have the lowest minimum wage ($5.15) of the 45 states that have a minimum wage requirement according to the United States Department of Labor. Provisions in the Agricultural Worker program portion of S-744 put every worker under this program in specific job categories and provide a minimum wage for every category. No American with any heart at all would want temporary agricultural workers to work for starvation wages and to be abused as has happened in the past, but the new wages proposed in this bill are substantially higher than the Department of Labors figures for state minimum wages and even the national minimum wage. The bill states:

(1) WAGE RATE REQUIREMENT.— (A) IN GENERAL.—A nonimmigrant agricultural worker employed by a designated agricultural employer shall be paid the wage rate for such employment set forth in paragraph (3). Paragraph says: DETERMINATION OF WAGE RATE.— (A) FISCAL YEARS 2014 THROUGH 2016.— The wage rate under this subparagraph for fiscal years 2014 through 2016 shall be the higher of— (i) the applicable Federal, State or local minimum wage; or (ii)(I) for the category described in paragraph (2)©—(aa) $9.37 for fiscal year 2014; (bb) $9.60 for fiscal year 2015; and (cc) $9.84 for fiscal year 2016; (II) for the category described in paragraph (2)(D)— S 744 IS (aa) $11.30 for fiscal year 2014; (bb) $11.58 for fiscal year 2015; and (cc) $11.87 for fiscal year 2016; (III) for the category described in paragraph (2)(E)— (aa) $9.17 for fiscal year 2014;
“(bb) $9.40 for fiscal year 2015; and (cc) $9.64 for fiscal year 2016; (IV) for the category described in paragraph (2)(F)— (aa) $10.82 for fiscal year 2014; (bb) $11.09 for fiscal year 2015; and (cc) $11.37 for fiscal year 2016; (B) SUBSEQUENT YEARS.—The Secretary shall increase the hourly wage rates set forth in clauses (i) through (iv) of subparagraph (A), for each fiscal year after the fiscal years described in subparagraph (A) by an amount equal to (i) 1.5 percent, if the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index for wages and salaries during the previous fiscal year, as calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is less than 1.5 percent; (ii) the percentage increase in such Employment Cost Index, if such percentage increase is between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent, inclusive; or (iii) 2.5 percent, if such percentage increase is greater than 2.5 percent.

Considering that there are always unintended consequences of these massive bills coming out of Washington and considering the fact that the wage rates quoted in the bill are substantially higher for the non-immigrant agricultural worker (Blue Card Worker) than the national and state minimum wage rates there are very real ramifications of this portion of the bill. Every business, even agribusiness, although heavily subsidized by the government, must make a profit to stay in business. It is entirely plausible that if required to pay substantially higher wages as proposed in S-744, agribusinesses must pass on to the eventual consumer the mandated rise in cost or would have to increase productivity and employ less workers to remain profitable. Another possible outcome is that current citizens and legal immigrants employed in minimum wage jobs across the nation would certainly demand that the national and state minimum wage be raised to at least equal that of the temporary farm worker as proscribed in S-744. Another possible unintended consequence of this portion of the bill is to give competitive advantage to imported foodstuffs over the American agribusiness owner. When labor intensive industries such as Agribusiness are forced to pay increased wages by government fiat those countries that protect and support their agribusiness and exploit their agricultural workers will export more goods to America at a lower price than the products can be produced in the United States.

Every aspect and provision of this Massive rework of the nations immigration laws must be scrutinized with an eye for unintended consequences. If the American public and media only concentrate their efforts on Amnesty and Border Security then Congress can slip all manner of odious provisions that may very well affect their lives far more than those only two provisions. Far too often when bills like this are passed Congress has no idea how the bureaucracy will interpret their intent. One thing is for certain, there will be ten fold the pages of regulations issued by the bureaucrats than there are pages in S-744. These bureaucratic regulations are often not what Congress intended. Real reform of any aspect of government requires thoughtful, rational debate, not just political pandering. Immigration reform is no different. The unintended consequences of S-744 may be far more detrimental than the issues is it supposed to address.

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