Immigration Reform: Dollars And Sense

Last week, President Obama went down to the border looking for some immigration reform support. He was in a bind because he’s at least three years behind in his promise to get it done. So, you’d think he would have been at least courteous to those who seriously question the type of reform he’s been fiddling around with. After all, like the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. And given the congressional majorities, he will need help from across the aisle to get anywhere near fulfilling his 2008 campaign promises to Hispanic communities.

But, smarts just isn’t up Obama’s alley or the truth, either, for that matter. He went out of his way to mock Republicans and praise himself for making the border more secure. Of course, he failed to mention that more security and effective security aren’t the same thing. It must have slipped his mind that only 44% of our southern border is under our operational control. Of that, only 15%, or less than 7% of the whole, has effective security. That 7% amounts to 129 out of 1,954 miles on the border. 129-and-done is not a winner on many security scorecards.

One fact can be gleaned from Obama’s speech. He doesn’t want immigration reform before the 2012 election. He apparently intends to use the lack of it as a political hammer to beat up his opponent on the campaign trail. Angling for perceived political advantage is SOP for a President who’d rather dither than lead, insult than resolve. And a lot easier than putting specifics in a bill for public consideration.

Since Obama isn’t serious about reform, the rest of us have to do the heavy lifting. Most of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants come across our southern border and end up in the unskilled labor pool. Currently, they cost taxpayers over $110 billion annually primarily from their consumption of social services. Amnesty, Obama’s clarion call, would make that painful economic reality dramatically worse. Citizenship bestows even more social benefits than unskilled illegals enjoy today. By one estimate, if the current illegal immigrant population is granted citizenship, their retirement benefits alone will cost U.S. taxpayers over $2 trillion. At the same time, their income would put them among the 47% of U.S. workers who pay zero dollars to the IRS. So, the cost of the increased benefits would have little revenue offset.

Plus, rewarding illegal immigrants with citizenship is a solution that fails repeatedly. Today, 25 short years after the last amnesty grant, the number of illegals has quadrupled. The continual prospect of amnesty draws them like a magnet across a border that we apparently cannot effectively secure. It’s time to shut that lure down permanently.

In these days of severe budget shortfalls and persistently hard economic times, we can’t afford to kick immigration reform around like a political football. So, here’s our serious solution in three words: temporary worker visas. An appropriately structured guest worker program for unskilled labor is the only thing that makes economic dollars and sense with fairness to everyone. Those visas exist now, of course, but the rules require some modification in light of recent experience.

For example, is temporary worker status a path to citizenship? No. DREAM Act? Dream on. Anchor babies? No more. Welfare benefits? Since the status is temporary, families should not be allowed to accompany workers into the country. The social services allowed to these guests would, therefore, be limited. Temporary visas can be issued to the illegals here now who qualify. As for the rest, it may be impractical for the U.S. to deport millions of people at once. But, they can always decide to relocate themselves, a decision made easier by the termination of gratis social services. In any case, they must leave when the family member’s visa expires.

What about the “fairness” cry in favor of amnesty for illegals? It’s an upside down argument. The inquiry should be what’s fair for those who foot the bill, not for people who decide to live off of them. Politicians who make the fairness claim are of the same mindset as those who promised gold at the end of the entitlements rainbow. And then proceeded to bankrupt our major welfare programs.  We can no longer afford their largesse. Passing our bucks stops here.

See you in the mirror.