After Health Care, Amnesty?

April 8, 2010 05:39

Democrats want to reform immigration with the same good sense, transparency, and concern for the future.

Mark Krikorian at NRO

Many on the left are demanding that the president take up amnesty for illegal immigrants as his next major goal. But it’s just not going to happen.

There has certainly been a lot of talk about moving on to immigration reform. Some 60,000 illegal aliens and their supporters staged a protest in Washington in March demanding amnesty. President Obama reiterated his “unwavering” commitment to legalizing the country’s 11 million illegal aliens. And a great fuss was made over a “blueprint” for an amnesty bill outlined in a Washington Post op-ed by Sens. Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham.

But indicators suggesting that amnesty is a non-starter this year are far more numerous and relevant. First of all, the coalition that would be expected to support such a bill is deeply divided. In fact, the reason there isn’t an actual bill yet in the Senate (House speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she won’t move anything until the Senate acts) is that Big Business and Big Labor disagree fundamentally about how “future flows” of increased immigration should work.

Employer lobbyists insist on a “guest worker” period — essentially, a period of indentured servitude during which immigrants could not leave the employers who “sponsored” them — for those admitted under any expanded legal-immigration program. For these cheap-labor employers, it would defeat the whole purpose if workers were free to look for better jobs. The unions, on the other hand, have rejected the idea of importing captive labor, because of the resulting unfair competition with American workers and inevitable exploitation of the captive laborers.

At a recent panel I was on at Harvard Law School, business lobbyist Tamar Jacoby said the employer interests negotiating over the bill had gone all the way down to a mere one-year period of “provisional immigration” for new workers, while the SEIU representative said even one year of “indenture” (he used the word repeatedly) was too much. This is all the more interesting considering that the SEIU backed an indentured-labor program when it allied with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to push amnesty in 2007.

Perhaps related to this split is the fact that Schumer, chairman of the Senate immigration subcommittee, has not been able to find any Republican co-sponsors save Lindsey Graham. Not Susan Collins. Not Olympia Snowe. Not Richard Lugar. Not even John McCain, who was a leader in pushing amnesty last time — but who now is in a tough primary and is pretending to be a conservative again. And even Graham said, during the health-care debate, that amnesty would be dead if Senate Democrats used reconciliation to push through Obamacare.


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