Candidates Court Illegal Immigrants

Published July 08, 2004

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On June 30, John Kerry went to Phoenix and spoke before the national conference of the race identity group La Raza (search). By now most Americans know that “La Raza” is Spanish for “The Race,” and also that the media accept that groups such as La Raza are conspicuously race conscious while being intolerant of others for being so.

This may be why Kerry, a presidential candidate of a mainstream political party, didn’t see much of a downside in speaking before such an organization. In Kerry’s appearance, Americans can see just how far behind its politicians have left the truth. They can also see that most candidates for federal office will propose almost anything if votes are in the offing.

Kerry said to his audience, "It is time to fulfill the promise of America, so that those who work hard and take responsibility and build a better life for them and their families, and live by the rules, and pay their taxes and raise their families have a right to share in America and its citizenship in the fullest." Kerry then went on to promise that the 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens in the U.S. would be given a “path to citizenship” in his first 100 days in office.

The speech, one of many by candidates for office, reportedly drew the loudest applause.

On closer inspection, it’s clear that Kerry’s pronouncement could have come right out of Orwell. Not a single individual who could benefit from Kerry’s amnesty plan has by any definition “played by the rules.”

Eligibility for the Kerry amnesty plan requires an individual to not just be present in the United States without a current visa (which is a crime under Title 8 of the U.S. Code) but also working, which is a crime under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (search)signed into law by Ronald Reagan in 1986. Both activities are capable of treatment as felonies.

If federal legislation represents the national will expressed through our representatives in Congress, then Kerry’s plan is in outright conflict with the will of a majority of Americans. But the fact that Kerry’s amnesty proposal puts only unprosecuted felons “on the path to citizenship” is not likely to be its downfall. After all, Republican Chris Cannon, the congressman from Utah who also spoke at the conference, has proposed similar legislation and it has garnered the support of 63 members of Congress (though several supporters are now distancing themselves from the bill). Kerry’s problem is more likely to be the fact that his amnesty is predicated on payment of one’s taxes.

According to the IRS, in 2001 individuals paying taxes with an ITIN, rather than a Social Security number (i.e. illegal aliens; the only individuals who have a need for or qualify for an ITIN are those without citizenship or lawful permanent residency) paid $305 million in federal income taxes. Calculated against 8 million illegal aliens, that’s a per capita federal tax payment of $38.13, and against 12 million illegal aliens, that’s a per capita federal tax payment of only $25.42. Since neither payment indicates earnings that would allow an individual to survive for one year, we can conclude only that there is persistent, massive tax non-compliance among illegal immigrants.

Why are our elected officials, including our Republican president, competing against one another to legitimize and reward lawbreaking on a scale more massive than anything our country has seen? How can Kerry, who has chosen a populist as his running mate, make election promises that effectively pit low-income Americans against illegal immigrants?

(The answer is that there is an enormous population of illegal immigrants in this country who may be eternally grateful to the political party that gives them legal status, and might show that gratitude by voting for that party when they are eligible to do so.)

African Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates, and observers consistently note that America’s lowest wage earners have voted for the Democratic candidate in every recent election. But both are being displaced by an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants who now enter and remain in the U.S. every year. The most recent Department of Labor (search) statistics show that the African-American adult unemployment rate has risen to 11.5 percent and that 37 percent of African-American teenagers are unemployed.

As Michelle Conlin and Aaron Bernstein wrote in the May 31, 2004, Business Week article called "Working … And Poor": “globalization has thrown the least-skilled into head-on competition with people willing to work for pennies on the dollar. And a torrent of immigration, mainly poor rural Mexicans, has further swelled the low-end labor pool.”

The Kerry-Edwards 2004 Web site is already spinning the candidate’s appearance at the La Raza conference as just one more example of the candidate’s inclusiveness. But the Kerry amnesty places the economic interests of a potential Democratic voting bloc above the interests of the traditional Democratic constituency, and in fact puts the two in direct conflict with one another. Patriotic Americans can hope that Kerry’s pure political calculation becomes clear by November.

Matt Hayes began practicing immigration law shortly after graduating from Pace University School of Law in 1994, representing new immigrants in civil and criminal matters. He is the author of The New Immigration Law and Practice, to be published in October.

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