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News for social, fiscal & national security conservatives who believe in God, family & the USA. Upholding the rights granted by God & guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, traditional family values, "republican" principles / ideals, transparent & limited "smaller" government, free markets, lower taxes, due process of law, liberty & individual freedom. All content approval rests with the ARRA News Service Editor. Opinions are those of the authors. While varied positions are reported, beliefs & principles remain fixed. No revenue is generated for or by this site - no paid ads accepted - no payments for articles. Fair Use doctrine is posted & used.
Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Immigration reform risky for Dems

Gary Bauer shared this note today: If higher energy taxes, socialized medicine, failed stimulus bills, union bailouts and homosexual rights aren’t enough to get your blood boiling, get ready for amnesty. New York liberal Chuck Schumer reportedly struck a deal with Harry Reid and the White House to pass an immigration reform bill by April. It’s just one more part of Obama’s “Big Bang” agenda that Democrats are desperate to ram through while they control Congress. I don’t make a habit of giving Democrats advice, but in a column at POLITICO today, I suggest that they might want to avoid digging the hole even deeper with yet another risky legislative move.
by Gary Bauer, Contributing Author: Immigration reform may seem a distant priority for a ruling party that’s made the increasingly elusive goals of job creation and health care reform its primary focus in 2010. Nevertheless, President Barack Obama and top congressional Democrats have signaled that, as Obama said in his State of the Union address, “fixing our broken immigration system” remains at the top of their legislative To Do list before the midterm elections.

But Democrats push immigration reform legislation, which would include amnesty for illegal residents, at their own peril. With employment persisting at 10 percent, addressing immigration risks reviving the grass-roots backlashes that have thus far defined the Obama presidency.

Even before the president’s SOTU call to action, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), according to POLITICO, was “quietly spreading the word within the immigration community that he has the White House’s support to pass a bill by April.” Schumer reportedly struck a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that he and other liberal Democrats would not push hard to include illegal immigrants under health care reform as long as the White House committed to starting an immigration overhaul effort this year.

Undertaking immigration reform now would only slightly delay Obama’s promise to tackle immigration in his first year. It might also energize America’s 11 million Latino voters, including the 3 million Latinos who voted for the first time in 2008, ahead of what look like very difficult elections for Democrats.

But it also would very likely provoke an intense grass-roots backlash. In 2007, when immigration reform was last debated, legislation that included amnesty looked likely to pass until many members of Congress went home to find deep opposition among their constituents. Concerned citizens — many of them conservatives, but also including independents and moderate Democrats — voiced their opposition to amnesty in town hall meetings across the country, insisting that enhanced border security was needed first. Largely because of the grass-roots pushback against amnesty, immigration reform failed.

Today’s anti-amnesty backlash could be even more potent. For one thing, the American people are already in the mood to protest. As the tea party and town hall meeting protests showed, Americans across the ideological spectrum are fed up with a ruling party that’s out of step with their values and priorities. Part of the dissatisfaction stems from government bailouts of various industries that forced already financially strained taxpayers to foot the bill.

In his SOTU address, Obama discussed reforming immigration laws in order to “ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.” That’s an approach most Americans can support. But the Democrats’ proposal includes an immigration amnesty that would reward those who by definition did not play by the rules.

Many Americans were furious over the bank and other industry bailouts because they intuitively understood that bailouts create moral hazards by rewarding bad behavior and incentivizing future bad behavior. Similarly, Americans recognize that granting amnesty to immigrants who entered the country illegally would reward an illegal act and offer future immigrants the incentive to do the same.

Then there is immigration reform’s effect on the economy. When grass-roots resistance killed immigration reform in 2007, the national unemployment rate stood at 4.5 percent. Today, unemployment is in double digits. Many economists believe large-scale immigration would make matters worse. Immigration exerts downward pressure on wages at the bottom of the labor market. And unemployment is highest among those groups that compete with new immigrants for entry-level jobs: blacks (30%), teenagers (27%) and those without a high school degree (15%t).

An influx of immigrants would also strain the welfare system. In 2006, Heritage Foundation immigration expert Robert Rector calculated that the net additional yearly cost to the federal government of benefits for new immigrants under the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, which included amnesty, would be $16 billion. “In the long run,” Rector concluded, “[the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act] would be the largest expansion of the welfare state in 35 years.”

The problem is that immigrants are disproportionately low-skilled (most illegal immigrants do not have a high school degree) and poor. Heritage research has found that such immigrants “receive, on average, three dollars in government benefits and services for each dollar of taxes they pay.” Those benefits and services include Social Security, Medicare, education and most of the more than 60 means-tested federal welfare programs, including food stamps, public housing, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and many more. In addition, Heritage research calculated that the cost of amnesty after amnesty recipients reach retirement would be $2.6 trillion.

Just as Americans reacted strongly to an attempt to overhaul health care because of its effect on their pocketbooks and the federal debt, many Americans would reject immigration reform legislation that aggravates an already perilous economic situation. Instead of taking seriously grass-roots resistance to amnesty, we can expect the left to react as it did when tea party protests and town hall pushback became obstacles to legislative success: to ignore or dismiss resistance to its agenda, then to attribute anger to ignorance or racism.

Far from being inspired by xenophobia or lack of compassion, however, opposition would come from Americans of all political stripes concerned about their jobs and a government increasingly willing to bail out those who do not play by the rules.

If Democrats are serious about reforming immigration, they should propose legislation that strengthens border security and cracks down on illegal hiring. A viable bill would also focus on promoting legal entry of highly skilled workers, who would be strong contributors to the government’s finances. It would also create a system of legalization that’s conditioned on verifiable reductions in the levels of illegal migration.

By pushing immigration reform, Democrats would provoke a grass-roots backlash that would build momentum going into the November elections. It would also allow conservatives to credibly argue that Democrats are placing partisan politics ahead of economic concerns, thus deepening the already pervasive disillusionment with Democratic-controlled Washington.
Gary Bauer is is a conservative family values advocate and serves as president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families. He submitted this article to the ARRA News Service Editor which also appears in his column in Politicol. Bauer was a former Republican presidential candidate and served as President Ronald Reagan’s domestic policy adviser.

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