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Amnesty By Any Other Name By: Mark Landsbaum
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, June 21, 2005


The mainstream media is gleeful with the latest “bi-partisan” proposal to “solve” the illegal alien problem. But those who don’t stand to directly benefit – and that’s most Americans – should be more skeptical.

Amnesty legislation introduced by Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona and Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts purports to “reform” immigration laws and equitably resolve the problem of a massive and continual illegal influx of aliens across U.S. borders.

 

But the reality is the McCain-Kennedy “reform” would reward lawbreakers for their illegal activity, while holding out a blatantly false promise of stemming future illegal immigration. In fact, it would likely spur further illegal immigration. Meanwhile, those who stand to profit are the lawbreakers and the businesses that hire them for paltry wages.

 

“This bill is a hoax we’ve seen before,” according to Mark Kirkorian of the Center for Immigration Studies.

 

Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-CO, agreed. “There might be a little more lipstick on this pig than there was before,” he said, “but it is most certainly the same old pig.”

 

The McCain-Kennedy bill is similar to the 1986 U.S. Immigration and Reform Act. The primary difference is the 1986 law granted amnesty to millions of illegal aliens who could prove they already had been in the country four years. The current proposal effectively would grant amnesty to those who pay a “fine” then wait six years for permanent legal status while working in the U.S. under a new classification of visa.

 

“The McCain-Kennedy proposal is a prospective amnesty, while the 1986 measure was a retrospective amnesty,” Kirkorian wrote recently in the National Review.

 

As history showed in the 1980s, granting amnesty to illegal aliens led to three results:

 

  • About three million persons who previously illegally entered the country were not prosecuted or deported, but instead rewarded with legal resident status.

 

  • A flood of forged documents were generated to “prove” illegals had been in the country the necessary three years.

 

  • Millions more aliens were encouraged to illegally enter the country on the expectation that prosecution and deportation were unlikely, and some day another amnesty might be offered.

The promise of another amnesty in the McCain-Kennedy bill is that very anticipated reward for the millions who have flooded into the U.S. since 1986.

 

The backers of the McCain-Kennedy bill include the usual suspects on the Left, so-called “immigrants’ rights” groups, and the self-interested business community that stands to profit from cheap labor. However, McCain may have over estimated the bill’s appeal.

 

“What was McCain thinking?” CIS’s Kirkorian asked. “Either he imagines this is some kind of political plus for him – in which case he’s even less knowledgeable than I imagined – or he’s already decided he’s not going to run for president. The Republican base is outraged by amnesty. They are really fired up about it.”

 

The McCain-Kennedy bill makes overtures to “enforcement” of immigration laws, but it appears more likely to be another hollow promise.

 

In 1986, the Immigration and Reform Act provided for fines for employers hiring illegal aliens, but in practice has been utterly ineffective. Although about 11 million illegal aliens live in the U.S., in 2003 the federal government fined only 124 employers for hiring them

 

Similarly, while the McCain-Kennedy bill provides for computerized employment checks, it does not provide for using a highly successful pilot program currently operated by Homeland Security, but instead requires the Social Security Administration to create a new system from scratch, according to Kirkorian.

 

“They want to kick the can down the road,” Kirkorian said. “They see they have to pretend to be in favor of enforcement.”

 

Although backers of the McCain-Kennedy bill tout its law enforcement provisions, including a $2,000 fine that illegal aliens must pay to apply for the new work visas, the penalties are no more promising than the feckless 1986 legislation when it comes to stemming the illegal alien influx. The bottom line is that when prosecution and deportation are unlikely, and incentives such as the promise of amnesty are held out, the overwhelming incentive is to encourage continued lawbreaking.

 

Hoover Institution historian Victor Davis Hanson has observed the “illiberal aspects” of encouraging millions to break the law to immigrate to the U.S.:

 

The subtext always has been that those who support open borders are somehow more caring or ethical than their purportedly insensitive opponents who wish a return to measured and legal immigration. In fact, the opposite is true. More frequently it is an uncaring elite - made up of both Democrats and Republicans –  that advocates not enforcing immigration laws. And it is past time for them to explain why it is moral or liberal, rather than merely convenient, to import millions outside the law to do the jobs we supposedly cannot.

 

As Hanson notes, illegal immigration results in billions of dollars sent to Mexico from illegals, draining capital from struggling immigrant communities inside the country. “Workers without high school diplomas who send back much of their wages often cannot pay for their own proper heath care, education, or housing here,” Hanson noted. The taxpayer is forced to foot this bill.

 

Moreover, employers who hire millions of young laborers from Mexico depress wages for poorer American workers, and immorally discriminate against millions of equally poor immigrants from Asia, Latin America, and Africa who properly wait years to come to the U.S.

 

“Time and time again,” agrees Rep. Tancredo, “history has shown us that amnesty actually increases illegal immigration.”

 

And as Kirkorian noted: “Even the French have figured all this out. Dominique de Villepin, France’s interior minister, was asked recently whether his country would stage another amnesty, as it did in 1981 and 1997. ‘It’s out of the question,’ he said. ‘Each time, it creates a chain reaction and wave of new arrivals.’”

 

The McCain-Kennedy legislation, despite its so-called bipartisan support, will have to compete with a rival bill being prepared by Arizona’s other Republican Senator, John Kyl, and John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. The Kyl-Cornyn legislation would authorize 10,000 new Border Patrol agents and 1,000 new immigration inspectors over the next five years, while committing $500 million between 2006 and 2010 for specialized border security equipment, such as sensors, camera poles, and unmanned aerial vehicles. That compares to the meager McCain-Kennedy requirement of “development of various plans and reports,” advisory committees, and “partnership” efforts with Mexico to address border security.

 

Significantly, the Kyl-Cornyn bill also more closely resembles the guest worker concept advanced by President Bush. Their bill, which is expected to be introduced in July, requires illegal aliens to return to their home countries to begin steps for legal approval to participate in a guest worker program, while the McCain-Kennedy bill does not.

 

Anything is better than nothing – which is what the McCain-Kennedy bill provides.

Mark Landsbaum is a freelance writer, author and former award-winning Los Angeles Times reporter in Diamond Bar, California.


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