The GOP's Gift to Obama
No issue plays into the hands of Obama the Divider quite as well as immigration. And Boehner the Weak is about to give in to him.
There are about 12 million illegals in this country. Yes, illegals – despite the scorn the PC crowd has attached to that label. The majority snuck in. Others overstayed their visas and melted into American society. What to do about them is one of the most divisive issues in the political debate.
Immigration reform proponents advocate legalizing illegals because (i) they are here and (ii) they aren’t paying taxes. Legalizing them would allow them to be rationalized into the workforce and make them and their employers abide by labor laws, pay taxes, support social welfare costs, and grow the gross domestic product. With rare exceptions illegals embrace American values, are motivated to pursue the American dream of success, and they hold jobs Americans don’t want. Or so the argument goes. Failing to integrate them into society is a form of racism, if not xenophobia, we’re warned.
Their opponents, on the other hand, argue that their presence is illegal. Granting them legal standing and a path to citizenship rewards their law-breaking and puts them at the front of the line ahead of those waiting to enter legally. They should be deported, denied access to citizenship and American welfare, and required to remain out of the country for a prescribed period before legally applying to reenter. In other words, go to the end of the line.
Both of these positions are impractical to implement and both ignore important economic and political issues in their public debate.
The Senate and the House have staked out different positions on the immigration issue. The House formulated a set of public principles at the beginning of this month that would offer a path to citizenship only to those brought illegally into this country as children by their parents (the so-called Dreamers.) The Senate bill, the work of Rubio and Schumer, would offer a path to citizenship to all who are in this country illegally. The Senate wants a sweeping comprehensive solution (think ObamaCare) whereas the House wants a piecemeal solution that enacts critical requirements – border security, citizenship pathway for Dreamers, immigration quotas for low and high skills, guest agricultural workers, and verification – separately into law. There are other differences but these are the main sticking points.
Too few voters are paying attention to the immigration debate, but for those who are, it requires understanding these facts.
Whereas many may think all illegals are Latinos, they aren’t. About three in four are; the rest are from other parts of the world, many from Asia, whose visas have expired. It’s also thought that illegals, especially Latinos, are undocumented Democrats. That’s mostly correct. The average turnout in the past six presidential elections for all voters is 54%; for Latinos it’s 48%. Latino voters break about 70% for Democrats (as compared to African-Americans who break 85% for Democrats.) So if all nine million illegal Latinos in this country were legalized to vote (those under age couldn’t vote) a bit over four million would exercise the right to vote and three million of them would vote Democrat. Three million is about 2% of the votes cast in recent presidential elections. Actually, the figure is probably half that, discounting for non-voter children.
The Senate bill, according to CBO, would increase the number of highly skilled and low skilled immigrant workers. It would admit fewer average skilled workers. We already have unemployment problems among low skill workers, a problem about to be made worse if Obama succeeds in raising the national minimum wage.
High skill workers in some specialties are already under competitive job pressures from the government’s corrupt management of the H-1B visa program which admits non-immigrant workers with certain skills to fill American jobs. The original idea of the H-1B visa was to resolve shortages of specially-trained workers – math, science, medicine, technology, engineering, for example – to prevent them from restraining growth in certain economic sectors dependent on those skills. Foreign-trained workers were allowed to fill high skilled jobs temporarily after which they were to return to their home country when the need no longer existed. Business executives learned how to game the system in order to fill high skilled jobs with low paid foreign workers even when it cost Americans those jobs.
In one visa fraud case, for example, the government revealed that the number of IT workers admitted under the H-1B program exceeded the number of unemployed Americans capable of doing the same work. Companies that outsource IT and software programming to India often game the visa program to bring workers into this country without looking for domestic specialists or intentionally avoiding employment of local workers. Foreign workers are less expensive. I personally know of an Indian software engineer who worked in an American company for a year at an annual salary of $12,000 before returning home. An American filling that position would have cost $60,000 to $70,000. A professional association representing a particular type of expertise noted unemployment among its members correlated positively with the H-1B quotas.
If the truth be known, many of the people who fill American job slots under H-1B are no more skilled than American workers who are just as qualified. But they are cheaper. And while the provisions of the visa program specify that foreign workers must be paid the prevailing American wage, there are (like all government programs) so many loopholes that the foreign workers are paid sub-standard wages. If the H-1B worker learns he is being underpaid and gets “frisky” about it, the employer terminates him and reports it to the US Immigration Department. Unless the worker is picked up by another employer, the only choice is to return home.
Recognizing the potential for abuses like these, a number of Republican Senators have come out against the Schumer-Rubio Senate bill. The Democrats, on the other hand, are pressing to pass a loophole-riddled immigration bill, believing that they can gain leverage with the immigrant voting bloc as well as paint the Republicans as heartless thugs. There is a golden opportunity for Republicans to come out on the side of the working class and show their voters what the Senate bill – and the Democrats – will do to jeopardize middle class jobs. As usual, Republican leaders have failed to seize that opportunity.
Moreover, Republican House Speaker Boehner recently announced that immigration reform was dead in this session of Congress, refusing to bring the Senate bill to a vote in the House and/or to bring the several House bills that have cleared their committees to the floor for a vote. The conservative base has put pressure on him by lobbying for strong border security before any legislation is admitted for other parts of immigration reform, but the Heritage Foundation came out strongly against undertaking immigration reform even if border security became law. But Heritage also noted Obama’s proclivity to legislate without benefit of Congress, which has destroyed all trust that he would enforce any border security law.
Schumer attempted to checkmate Heritage and Boehner by saying on this past week’s Sunday shows that the Senate bill could be modified so that it would not become law until 2017, after Obama had left office, allowing it to be passed by the House in this session. Schumer’s proposal supposedly takes Obama’s mendacity out of the equation. But why the rush to pass immigration reform before this Fall’s 2014 mid-term elections? If you’re a political cynic like me you’re wary of Greeks – or Schumer – bearing gifts.
Here’s why there’s a rush. What does every Democrat running for election in 2014 fear the most? ObamaCare, of course. The more that ObamaCare is allowed to fill the headlines with news of its disastrous effect on American lives the dimmer the Democrat prospects for holding the Senate look – not to mention their fate at state level elections. Obama’s lawlessness has allowed him to delay provision after provision of this accursed law in order to delay its crushing weight until after the election. His poll numbers head south every time another negative ObamaCare-provoked impact is reported.
But if Obama and his goon squad in the Senate could convince Boehner the Weak that the Republicans will be chopped liver in the Fall elections unless they take up immigration reform, all sorts of magic will happen. Obama’s sagging approval numbers will be rejuvenated because immigration reform will be law – or nearly so. Since immigration is such a divisive issue among conservative voters, it will ignite a lose-lose food fight like we’ve never seen, paralyzing the GOP for the remainder of the year with in-fighting. Untold numbers of pro-Republican voters will sit out the 2014 election in fury. The Democrats will be able to paint the anti-immigration Republicans as Hispanic racists. And most importantly, ObamaCare will be replaced in the news by the immigration battle.
It will be the greatest gift the GOP could give Obama.