The Republicans need to give up on immigration reform.
The latest Pew poll shows that “dealing with illegal immigration” is very low on the priority list for American voters. However, “strengthening the nation’s economy” and “improving the job situation” happen to be the most important issues for today’s voters.
Supposedly, this bipartisan support for immigration reform stems from the Republicans’ desire to build their Hispanic base. However, if anything, Pew reveals that Americans care about dealing with “illegal immigrants,” i.e. not naturalizing millions of illegals.
In addition, if Americans are most concerned with seeing an improved job situation and economy, Republicans are bound to lose if they do immigration reform.
Last year’s CBO report on the immigration reform bill, then under consideration, exposed how a flood of new workers will hurt American wages and jobs:
The increase in the average wage would not occur for a dozen years. As the labor supply initially increased under the legislation, less capital would be available for each worker to produce output, and thus workers’ output, on average, would be lower for a time. That decline would reduce average wages relative to those under current law.
They do project that over time the wages would balance out, but let’s consider how government assistance to illegals and the poor affects the economy:
With lower incomes, illegals rely more on welfare programs. CIS says in Texas, “58 percent of illegal households collect some sort of welfare,” with “49 percent using food assistance and 41 percent using Medicaid.” In California and Illinois, reports CIS, “55 percent use welfare.”
Even if naturalization did absolutely nothing to affect the job market, the number of people added to the welfare system would certainly have a negative effect on American workers.
To put it another way, David Flynn noted:
I find it clarifying to think of the immigration policy of the past three decades as a massive subsidy to employers of cheap labor. They save a few dollars an hour. The rest of the country pays the associated costs of raising their workers up to an acceptable American standard of living.
Republican policies could absolutely improve the economy and create jobs, but not if the GOP sells out on the immigration issue. This idea that we ought to “let them in” is a very new one. Back in 1722, Massachusetts required “lame, impotent, or infirm persons” to promise they would not become “the public charge” of the town they immigrated to. The 1790 Alien Naturalization Act required immigrants to be of “good moral character.”
One of government’s basic duties is to protect American citizens. In the realm of immigration, that means carefully choosing who can become a citizen. Not all illegal immigrants are horrible people—quite the opposite. Nonetheless, the sudden naturalization of these immigrants will harm American workers and productivity, which in turn will jeopardize the Republicans’ chances of success—if not by flooding the market with low-income workers, then by adding millions of welfare recipients to the taxpayers’ tab.
Republicans have so much more to stand on than reforming immigration. They need to focus on jobs and the economy, and if they want to tackle immigration, this is not the way to do it.
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