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A massive amnesty for illegals

Guy W. Farmer

Here’s my nomination for Headline of the Week: “Fox Backs Bush (Immigration) Plan.” Duh! Is anyone actually surprised to learn that Mexican President Vicente Fox welcomes President Bush’s massive, three-year amnesty proposal for more than eight million “undocumented workers” – more than half of whom are Mexican citizens – who are living and working illegally in the United States? I doubt it.

There are two main reasons for Bush’s unprecedented election year proposal: 1) he’s trolling for Hispanic votes, and 2) he wants to keep major corporate campaign contributors happy by providing them with a continuing and increasing supply of cheap labor. This blatantly political plan represents an unholy alliance between militant Hispanic organizations and Big Business – a weird marriage, if you will, between Emma Sepulveda and her friends at La Raza, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Bombastic Fox News Channel commentator Bill O’Reilly described the Bush amnesty plan as a “calculated political move” that will open the immigration floodgates. “He (Bush) is betting that his supporters, many of whom won’t like the quasi-amnesty, will vote for him anyway, especially if Howard Dean is his opponent,” O’Reilly wrote last week. “And by showing compassion to millions of Hispanic illegals, the president hopes to win some hearts and minds, and, most importantly, votes.” So even though Bush won about 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000, he wants more this year.

Like O’Reilly, I might support the president’s program if he’d get serious about protecting our borders and prosecuting companies (like Wal-Mart) that exploit illegals. But Bush has a “yes we can’t” attitude toward illegal immigration and is unable and/or unwilling to control our borders. Some fellow Republicans make excuses for him, however, claiming that the plan is evidence of the president’s “compassionate conservatism.” Two Bush supporters, writing last week in the conservative Weekly Standard, argued that the president’s plan will actually improve border enforcement. Of course it will because there won’t be any illegal immigrants left to deport.

Somewhat surprisingly, moderate CNN economic/political analyst Lou Dobbs agrees with O’Reilly. “The president’s … immigration policy sounds like a national job fair for those businesses and farms that don’t want to pay a living wage and for those foreigners who correctly think U.S. border security is a joke and are willing to break our laws to live here,” Dobbs wrote in the U.S. News & World Report.

Both Dobbs and O’Reilly worry about the unintended consequences of the amnesty plan, which could result in “massive new human smuggling operations as the world’s gangsters see gold at the end of the illegal immigration rainbow,” as O’Reilly put it.

Let’s examine the main provisions of the president’s “open borders” proposal:

n The new temporary worker program would allow an illegal immigrant or someone from abroad to apply for the right to work here legally for a three-year term that could be renewed. Of course they could bring their families with them.

n Applicants already in the U.S. must pay an unspecified registration fee and show they are currently employed while applicants from abroad must have a valid job offer from an American employer, who must prove that no Americans wanted the job.

n Temporary workers would receive the same legal protections afforded to American workers, but must agree to return to their home countries after three years. Allegedly, the plan will provide incentives (such as tax savings accounts) for temporary workers to return to their home countries.

In the real world, however, there’s about as much chance of these workers returning home as there is that the tooth fairy will appear at your bedside tonight. Dobbs noted that over the past 10 years, more than 2 million low-skilled American workers have been displaced from their jobs by immigrants and that each 10 percent increase in the immigrant workforce decreases U.S. wages by 3.5 percent. In other words, why should an employer pay an American worker $10 an hour when he can hire an immigrant for half as much?

Nevada casinos can be expected to jump on the “temporary worker” bandwagon in order to minimize expenses in an increasingly competitive market. And who could blame them? Not our own Sen. John Ensign, a conservative Republican, who candidly admitted that Nevada’s service-based economy would collapse without cheap immigrant labor.

Since more than one-third of all legal immigrants are already on welfare, and at least 25 percent of illegal immigrants are receiving some form of governmental assistance ranging from free medical care to public schooling for their children, the president’s program would be costly. For example, Sen. Diane Feinstein, a San Francisco Democrat, estimates that medical bills for illegal immigrants are now running at more than $1 billion per year in California, which is facing a huge budget deficit. That’s why the immigration proposal will be a tough sell in Congress.

An Appeal letter-writer raised a valid question last week when he asked why the U.S. should open its borders in the midst of a war on international terrorism. In short, President Bush’s amnesty plan would reward lawbreakers and hurt American workers. We can’t afford this plan, even if it costs the president a second term.

Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.