The sheer staggering awfulness of CIRA (the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, passed by the U.S. Senate yesterday) is just beginning to dawn on me. Heritage's Robert Rector, who knows what he's talking about, called it "the worst bill I have seen in 25 years." The only thing to question there is the 25. This might easily be the worst bill ever.
I've been following immigration issues, in a not-very-attentive way, for 30-something years. I've held five different residence statuses myself (B-2, illegal, H-1B, Green Card, citizen). There are people like Mark Krikorian who have been really following the issue for years — working the facts, crunching the numbers, doing the extrapolations, arguing the issues, every working day. God only knows how Mark must be feeling: for the truly breathtaking thing about CIRA is that it is built on a foundation of sheer ignorance. All that research, all that work, all those arguments might just as well not have taken place. How's it feel, Mark?
Ignorance, and indifference. There seems to have been no consideration of CIRA's impact on:
—-our legal system
—-our local-level public services
—-our looming entitlements crisis
The cost estimate of $54 over ten years is a joke, like all cost estimates in Congressional acts. Educational costs alone will be ten times that.
Take a school district at random — say, mine. Here are the percentages of Hispanic students as you go down the age scale in this quiet suburban community 1,400 miles from our nation's southern border:
High school (17 percent Hispanic)
Junior High (16 percent)
Intermediate (28 percent)
Elementary (31 percent)
Check out the numbers for your own district. When, exactly, did the U.S. people ask for 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.
With Arlen Specter, perhaps, who at the very last minute slipped in an amendment to give the President of Mexico veto power over our border security arrangements! Here is Specter on some earlier issues:
"Not so, said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in a rebuttal to weeks of debate. 'They have to pay a fine. They have to undergo a criminal background check. They have to pay back taxes, they have to learn English and they have to go to the back of the line,' he said, referring to illegal immigrants who would apply for citizenship."
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. How big are Capitol Hill garbage bins? That's the only place this heap of dreck belongs.