Politics & Policy

Capitulation, Not Compromise

One bad deal, anyway you slice it.

The U.S. Senate is again itching for an amnesty and a reckless increase in permanent and temporary immigrants.

Several senators, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez have just finished negotiating behind closed doors. Their goal: a “compromise” immigration bill.

What they’ve produced is more capitulation than compromise. It gives alien lawbreakers what they came to steal: a U.S. job and U.S. residency.

The usual pro-amnesty suspects joined the Bush officials, such as Fla. Sen. Mel Martinez, the unlikely head of the Republican National Committee (a trial lawyer as well as advocate of open borders). But several usually law-and-order senators joined in, including Arizona’s good senator, Jon Kyl.

The Republican contingent reworked their plan with Democrat amnesty leaders such as Sen. Ted Kennedy. Of course, the Left didn’t go along with the good parts of the GOP plan and only made the bad parts worse, or will change things back later.

While the GOP started with many desirable enforcement measures, they got gutted. The deal suffers the fatal flaw of legalizing virtually all current illegal aliens.

On the plus side, from what we know about the deal, it would eventually eliminate some chain-migration visas. These result in immigration by extended relatives without regard to one’s skills, ability, or education.

But rather than reducing overall immigration levels, the Senate plan would reallocate these visas to other categories, while increasing others. That defeats the purpose, because America’s immigration problem is twofold. While quality of the immigrant pool should be raised, the quantity of overall immigration should be significantly cut.

Virtually every opinion poll for the past four decades shows overwhelming public support for cutting immigration. Usually, around half the respondents favor reduction.

Those ignorant of present immigration levels may say they favor keeping them the same (but that changes when pollsters inform respondents that immigration today is at one million legal immigrants annually, which is four times the traditional average).

But in no poll does a plurality or majority ever support keeping current levels, much less increasing immigration. The latter option usually polls around ten percent or less.

The Senate-Bush plan would open the floodgates to hundreds of thousands more foreign workers – thus making worse the career prospects of American workers by further artificially expanding the labor force. This is tantamount to government intervention in the market – centralized government manipulation of the labor pool — a.k.a. socialistic corporate welfare.

For those who bothered to read Adam Smith, they’ll know that when you increase the supply of something (a good or the number of laborers), you drive down the price of it (for workers, that means depressing their wages). That’s fine for Americans qua consumers, but it’s not fine for Americans qua wage-earners.

In fact, those bringing home smaller paychecks would prefer the traditional American way. They’d prefer to earn more and pay a little more for consumer goods than to be forced into unfair head-to-head job competition with thousands of imported workers and paying less for a head of lettuce or a t-shirt.

Perhaps most baffling is why Republicans, who’ll have to stand for reelection themselves, would want to force a mass amnesty and immigration increase on an unwilling public — especially on behalf of a lame-duck, unpopular president.

President Bush is the least popular U.S. president since Richard Nixon at the height of the Watergate scandal or Jimmy Carter at the depths of stagflation. Bush cannot run again for reelection, and many people within his own party complain of “Bush fatigue.”

Bush has proven to be a “uniter, not a divider” only in unifying opposition to his administration — from Harriet Miers’s Supreme Court nomination to launching an unpopular war in Iraq, to pushing a secretive North American union to erase our borders with Canada and Mexico.

I worked on Capitol Hill for a man who’d taken the same “no new taxes” pledge as the first President Bush. When that White House tried to get other Republicans to break their promises and support the 1990 tax increase, many like my boss refused. Guess who got reelected?

In the same way, it makes no sense for congressional Republicans today to cut any deals with this White House to legalize illegal aliens or increase immigration levels. Similarly, it makes no sense for congressional Democrats to give Bush a “win,” especially one that stiffs “Reagan Democrats” who could easily revert to voting Republican.

An amnesty-guestworker program is bad anyway you look at it. Bad policy. Bad politics. Republicans: Surrender at your peril.

– James R. Edwards Jr., coauthor of The Congressional Politics of Immigration Reform, is an adjunct fellow with the Hudson Institute.

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