Friday, April 10, 2009
Will Obama's New Legalization Push Screw American Workers? Or Has It Already Screwed Them? Both supporters and opponents of illegal immigrant legalization think trying to pass it "while the U.S. economy is mired in economic turmoil" might be difficult. The fear/expectation is that Americans will see the new law as a plan to allow foreigners who aren't supposed to be here to compete for the few jobs that are left, bidding down wages in the process. But here's the thing: Just by re-opening the legalization issue, without passing any new law, Obama has already encouraged foreigners who aren't supposed to be here to come and compete for the few jobs that are left, bidding down wages in the process. What better way to encourage more illegal immigration than by promising a possible amnesty in the next few years?
This incentive is especially strong, actually, if immigrants (not unreasonably) think it really will take years to write and enact a legalization bill. Suppose, for example, that Congress passes a bill in the late summer of 2010. There will be a cutoff, of course--if you entered the country illegally after a certain date, you wouldn't qualify for the amnesty. But what date? It if the bill doesn't pass until mid- 2010 there's a good chance that the cutoff date will be sometime around the end of 2009, if not later. (The last legalization plan, the "Z-Visa" debated in May of 2007, had a cutoff of January 1, 2007 .). That means if you are now in Mexico or Central America and you can make it across the border in the next few months, you're likely to qualify for legalization. The longer Congress takes, of course, and the sooner you come, the better the chance you'll have of beating the cutoff. Obama might as well print up leaflets that say
LEGALIZATION IS COMING. GET ACROSS THE RIO GRANDE NOW IF YOU WANT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS OFFER!
It's hard to believe Obama adviser Cecilia Munoz doesn't realize reopening the amnesty issue could have this effect.
In any case, low-wage American workers don't have to worry that Obama's immigration proposals might make it harder for them to feed their families. Obama already made it a bit harder to feed their families, yesterday, just by letting Munoz and others bring up the subject. The damage--at least some of it--has been done. The lowest-paid Americans can now expect more low-wage jobs to go to illegal immigrant workers attracted by the very prospect that illegal immigrant legalization will succeed. ...
P.S.: CNN reports --after taking to "two senior administration officials"--that
the Obama administration wants to remove incentives to enter the U.S. illegally
Um, the easiest way to do that would have been to not put out yesterday's story. ...
P.P.S.: Gibbs vs. Munoz ...
At Thursday's White House briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs suggested the front-page Times story was a bit overplayed. "Most of what I read today one could have written a year or so ago, based on what he said on the campaign trail. He told groups through 2007 and 2008 that the process on immigration reform would begin during his first year in office," Gibbs said. "I don’t think that he expects that it’ll be done this year. ..."
[ Thanks to alert reader P .]
Update: I'm not saying there's not a good chance of some form of legalization passing fairly soon. Sen. McCaskill of Missouri, previously a tough-on-immigration Dem, just announced she'd now "probably" vote for the so-called "DREAM Act," which would legalize illegals who entered the country before their 16th birthday and would have the effect of legalizing " 25% of our total undocumented population ," according to some proponents. (Do you think the government is going to deport the undocumented parents of the newly-legalized DREAM immigrants?) By some estimates, McCaskill could be the crucial 60th senator in favor of DREAM. ... The DREAM Act ( 2007 version, 2009 version ) required that "the alien has been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding the date of enactment"--a cutoff that would, in theory, eliminate the incentive of potential illegals to cross the border now with their children in order to have those children qualify (assuming it didn't take Congress five years to pass the law). But the prospect of DREAM's passage would discourage some illegal immigrants from returning home (which would breach the "continuous" presence requirement). Plus, there's always the possibility of the next DREAM Act, or DREAM Act extension, that would advance the cutoff date--why make a kid who's been here for only 4 years 'live in the shadows,' etc.. ... In any case, current administration talk hasn't been about the DREAM Act, but rather about a broader legalization program. ...[ Correction: I've removed a sentence that ignored DREAM's five year cutoff.] ... [ Thanks to reader J. ].
[T]he illegal immigrant population seems to have ticked up, grown somewhat if you will, during the debate over legalization or amnesty last year. And the figures show that after the amnesty failed, the numbers begin to fall pretty quickly.