Published May 13, 2011
Candidate Obama is back so once again the president is pushing to legalize millions of illegal immigrants.
In a speech delivered during a campaign fundraising trip to Texas this week, President Obama called on Congress to approve comprehensive immigration reform, also known as “amnesty.” Despite being delivered in a state located so close to the border, the president’s speech was far from reality. When you look past the president’s rhetoric, the facts tell a different story.
The president blamed Republicans for supposedly blocking comprehensive immigration reform. But what he didn’t say was that during the past two years Democrats held strong majorities in both Houses of Congress. Amnesty had bipartisan opposition, and was opposed by the American people.
Time and again, the American people have defeated amnesty attempts by politicians who are pandering to liberal interest groups. American voters know that if you reward illegal actions, you’ll only encourage more of them. Amnesty for illegal immigrants only leads to more illegal immigration.
That’s exactly what happened after the last amnesty. In 1986, Congress legalized an estimated 3 million illegal immigrants. It didn’t fix the problem, it only made it worse. Today, there are more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
The president continued his fictitious claims by ignoring the facts regarding border security. The administration claims that the border is “more secure than ever.” Meanwhile, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office reported that only 44% of the border is under the operational control of the Border Patrol. Forty-four percent is a failing grade. And if that’s the most secure the border has ever been, it’s time to get to work to improve the grade. The American people expect nothing less than an A+ on border security.
The president once again touted the administration’s ‘record’ deportation numbers, but administration officials used questionable methods to achieve their results.
For example, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) included more than 19,000 immigrants who had exited the previous fiscal year. And ICE continued operation of a Mexican repatriation program five weeks longer than it had done previously, allowing the agency to count at least 6,500 exits that would not have otherwise been included. In other words, the Obama administration’s “record” deportation numbers don’t add up.
The fact is that under this administration, worksite enforcement efforts fell 70 percent.
The president also confused illegal immigrants with legal immigrants as he tried to make a case for amnesty being good for the economy. For example, the president mentioned the co-founder of Google and a media mogul as immigrants who have created jobs for millions of Americans. But what he didn’t say was that Sergey Brin and Rupert Murdoch both came to the U.S. legally.
Republicans agree that we should encourage immigration by highly skilled legal immigrants. But those highly-skilled workers aren’t illegal immigrants. They followed the rules, waited in line and came to the U.S. legally on visas.
While highly-skilled legal immigrants are strong contributors to the American economy, illegal immigration is the opposite. According to one study, illegal immigration costs American taxpayers an estimated $113 billion each year. Many states face a fiscal crisis due to costs related to illegal immigration, including education, health care and incarceration of criminal aliens.
The president claims that once they achieve legal status illegal immigrants will begin to pay taxes, but that simply isn’t true. Low-skilled workers don’t pay federal income taxes. In fact, low-skilled workers often receive a check from the Internal Revenue Service. Plus they are eligible for Social Security benefits, so illegal immigrants actually cost taxpayers a lot of money.
In addition to the fiscal burden, illegal workers take jobs that rightly belong to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants. More than 26 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Meanwhile, seven million individuals are working illegally in the United States.
The president was right about one thing – we are a nation of immigrants. But we are a nation of legal immigrants. We have the most generous legal immigration policy in the world—admitting one million immigrants each year. We do not need to reward millions of illegal immigrants who broke our laws and came into the U.S. illegally.
Amnesty is bad policy for the American people. If the president is serious about helping the economy and putting Americans back to work, it’s time for him to start enforcing our immigration laws.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.