Since June when the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization bill, tens of thousands of stories and broadcasts have been devoted to comprehensive immigration reform. Yet only a handful have outlined the bill’s most crucial feature, namely that it will in most cases give immediate legal status and therefore work authorization to between 11-20 million illegal immigrants. On top of that, 20 million more overseas workers will be issued non-immigrant work visas that will allow them to compete with Americans for increasingly scarce jobs.
Advocates routinely cite polling that they claim shows nationwide support for a path to citizenship. But these polls rarely reflect what’s in the Senate bill or phrase the questions in a way that would fully inform the participants. One, do you agree that 11 million individuals who entered the U.S. illegally should be given the legal right work? Two, do you think that the border should be fully secured before deciding what action to take regarding existing illegal immigrants? Three, should the U.S. invite more foreign-born workers be even though 20 million Americans can’t find a full-time job? Four, should the federal government increase the number of guest workers despite more than enough Americans available in the labor pool?
Democrats and Republican, when presented with the facts, overwhelmingly support tighter border security and oppose work permits for illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S. They also reject more legal immigration and paths to citizenship. For example, a March Fox News poll found that 69 percent of all voters want the border secured before making other immigration policy changes. Moreover, 84 percent of Fox respondents indicated that they want stringent border enforcement to prevent future illegal immigration.
A survey commissioned by NumbersUSA, which promotes reduced immigration, and conducted by Pulse Opinion Research shows 44 percent of likely voters want the government to lower the number of permanent work visas issued. Furthermore, 60 percent of likely voters oppose the Senate bill’s proposal to increase the number of green cards for new immigrants to 20 million over the next decade. Three-quarters of those surveyed said there are more than enough unemployed Americans with no more than a high school diploma to fill the low-skilled jobs that would go to millions of new immigrants under the Senate bill.
Immigration reform, as defined by advocates, isn’t intended to stimulate debate or intelligent analysis. Those who favor large immigration increases want to ignore details that mitigate against amnesty. They label adversaries as selfish, unenlightened or, even worse racist and hardliners. Viewed through the media’s lens, reformers are always on the right side, traveling on the high road.
The legislative process would be more productive if Congress abandoned the concept of reform and concentrated instead on the actual virtues and vices of the proposals at hand. Once the idea of reform is introduced, honest skepticism and dissent are often filtered out.
When pollsters asked probable voters to evaluate the Senate bill’s “virtues” (legalization, path to citizenship) versus its “vices,” they overwhelmingly rejected “reform.” Legalization and citizenship for illegal immigrants wouldn’t happen in a vacuum. Lost American jobs would be the consequence, a price voters don’t want to pay.
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