Monday, 01 December 2008

Obama's Plan for Immigration "Reform"

Written by  Alex Newman

immigration reformThe new administration's Blueprint for Change devotes four pages to most of the political issues it encompasses, but on immigration there are two. But it says enough to know where Obama intends to take the country. Obama opens the section on immigration with an excerpt from a speech he made in 2007 on the Senate floor where he calls for reuniting immigrant families, implying that he believes the United States needs to continue both "chain migration" — whereby immigrants to the United States are allowed to sponsor an almost endless linkage of family members to become citizens — and enact an amnesty.

The amnesty is supposedly needed so that illegal immigrants won't be deported and forced to leave their American-born children behind. Never mind that this really only happens when deportees do not tell immigration officials that they have children here — usually because the deportee intends to return to the United States posthaste. Obama goes on to say, "Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should," signaling a likely increased wave of new legal immigrants.

Further details in the Blueprint bear out those assumptions. Within the first year of his term as president, Obama says he will "revive" George W. Bush's "comprehensive immigration reform," which includes promises to secure the border, fix the "broken immigration bureaucracy," and put "12 million undocumented immigrants on a responsible path to citizenship." The immigration "problem," as Obama sees it, has three main components: the number of illegal aliens has increased by 40 percent since 2000, and every year more than half-a-million new illegal immigrants arrive; the bureaucracy is "broken and overwhelmed," which forces legal immigrants to wait years for applications; and immigration raids, which have increased 10-fold, are ineffective, placing "all the burdens of a broken system" on immigrant families.

Obama doesn't see the problem as the burden that the masses of legal and illegal immigrants are putting on Americans. He ignores the $89.1 billion that Americans shell out in local, state, and federal taxes each year to pay just for the social benefits for the immigrants who have less than a high-school degree (this is the amount above what the immigrants pay in taxes). He doesn't acknowledge the depressed wages of Americans because of increased numbers of job seekers, even as inflation eats away at Americans' earnings, or the welfare paid to Americans who lose their jobs to the immigrants. And he fails to notice that America is brim-full of blue-collar workers. In 2005, 63,000 applicants applied for 2,000 jobs at a new Toyota plant in San Antonio before company officials stopped taking applications after two weeks. Since 2005, our country has hemorrhaged blue-collar jobs. We now have about half as many manufacturing jobs in America as in the early 1950s, yet we have twice the population.

To combat the problem he sees, Obama has proposed a variety of solutions. The first one seems reasonable enough: increase personnel, technology, and infrastructure at the borders and other ports of entry. (But every recent president has promised this, including George W. Bush, and no one has delivered.) Next he proposes increasing the number of legal immigrants allowed to enter the country. Obama and Biden say they "realize the need to increase the number of people we allow into the country legally to a level that keeps families together and meets the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill." This was written before the presently high unemployment levels, which the United States has not seen the likes of in decades. (Of course, in the United States the unemployment rate is very misleading, even at the best of times: when someone stops collecting unemployment, he or she is no longer considered to be unemployed. He or she is deemed to have left the workforce. This means that the vast bulk of the country could lose their jobs this month, but in a few months, official figures could show a low unemployment rate.)

The Blueprint continues, saying that Obama will remove the incentives to enter the United States illegally by cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. (Evidently he doesn't believe that free schooling, free healthcare, and other social services funded by taxpayers are incentives to illegal immigrants because these are not mentioned.) On his campaign website he points to a proposal he championed in the Senate to create a "new employment eligibility verification system so employers can verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S." Also on the agenda for immigration is a plan to bring undocumented workers "come out of the shadows." The illegals will pay a fine, learn English, and supposedly "go to the back of the line" for the opportunity to become citizens. Since the illegals will be allowed to live and work here legally in some manner until they are made citizens, one wonders how they are now at "the back of the line."

Obama dedicates part of his Blueprint for Change to his record on the issue to show that he is serious about combating the "problem." He starts by pointing out that during the most recent immigration debate, "Obama was a leader in seeking common-sense balanced immigration reform." While in the Senate he supported amendments that would have "prioritized keeping families together" and would have "held employers who hire undocumented immigrants responsible." He also apparently "pushed Congress to find common ground." He purports to have helped "fix the bureaucracy," by joining with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois, to introduce the "Citizenship Promotion Act" to "ensure that immigration application fees are both reasonable and fair." He also "introduced legislation that passed the Senate to improve the speed and accuracy of FBI background checks." His last headline in the section on his record is entitled "Respect families." In it, he reiterates that he has introduced amendments to "put a greater emphasis on keeping immigrant families together."

But what is in Obama's Blueprint only tells part of the story. On December 4, 2007, he told NPR that after illegal aliens pay their fine and get on his "pathway," "they can then stay here and they can have the ability to enforce a minimum wage that they're paid, make sure the worker safety laws are available, make sure that they can join a union." He also voted to let illegal aliens participate in Social Security, and he has consistently supported amnesty, including voting in favor of the DREAM Act in 2007, which gives citizenship to young illegal immigrants who go to college in the United States or join the U.S. military.