The Corner

Trouble in Amnesty Paradise

The Schumer/Rubio amnesty bill was supposed to have been introduced by now. It was supposed to be at the beginning of March, then was pushed to mid-March, now early April.

The problem is not Jeb Bush’s flipflopflip on citizenship for illegal aliens, as hilariously embarrassing as that was for the Smarter Bush Brother. Rather, the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can’t agree on a guestworker program. A massive new program to import indentured low-wage manual laborers from abroad is the only real reason the Chamber has any interest in the immigration bill. So if the bill doesn’t have a satisfactory “future flow” arrangement, their muscle won’t be behind the bill, which will need all the muscle it can get, especially to secure enough Republican votes.

Although the matter of numbers is a key issue (the Chamber wants effectively unlimited admissions), the most emotionally charged issue has always been that the Chamber wants a period of indenture for the imported workers before they’re manumitted to work in the broader labor market. In other words, an imported worker would have to work for, say, two years for the employer that bought sponsored him, after which he’d get a green card and be able to negotiate higher wages or leave for another job. (It’s never been envisioned as a temporary program — rather, it’s a massive increase in permanent low-skilled immigration, but one that requires a try-out period at the front end.) The unions object to the period of indenture and want the new workers to join up right away and be able to strike.

The United Farm Workers did agree to a period of indenture in the AgJObS bill, which has been floating around in various forms for years. But that was only because it was a vehicle for amnestying the existing illegal-alien ag labor force, and the farmers would only agree to legalization if they were assured an unending supply of new peasant labor to replace the people who fled the instant they got green cards.

During the last round of amnesty legislating in 2005–07, the AFL-CIO parted ways with the Chamber, but the SEIU didn’t, making the Leninist calculation that getting ever-more foreign workers into the country was the key objective, since once legally here there’d be no chance they’d be removed. The concerns over the indentured-labor portions of the 2007 bill contributed to its demise, giving Democrats a liberal reason to vote against it. So, even if the AFL-CIO caves to the Chamber, this issue could still scuttle the bill later in the process.

The phony agreement on principles for such a program announced last month by the Chamber and the AFL-CIO was hailed by lazy reporters transcribing the press release as a great step forward, but its complete lack of substance was really a sign of deadlock. As a result, Politico reports that “Senate staffers are now taking the lead on trying to come up with a fix,” which means less buy-in from the two outside groups and more chance they’ll balk at the result.

And even if they get a bill put together this month, Lindsey Graham has made clear it would not be introduced before Easter recess, to prevent those pesky constituents from confronting their senators back home about it. Here’s how AP described the timing:

The legislation is certain to be controversial and may spark passionate opposition from lawmakers’ constituents at town halls and elsewhere. Such opposition helped sink the last congressional attempt at overhauling immigration laws, in 2007. So even if it were finished in time, Graham said it wasn’t a good idea to release the bill before a two-week recess.

“You don’t want to leave it hanging out for two weeks to get shot up,” he said.

These are our elected representatives, and they want to make sure the public doesn’t have a chance to chew over what they’re voting on. Unbelievable.

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