Monday, May 22, 2006

One hundred and three million

103 million new immigrants in the next twenty years. That is the low estimate of what Robert Rector from the Heritage Foundation has determined would result from the passage of the Senate Immigration bill.

I thought I would follow up on Anna's post titled English where she discussed proposals to make English America's official or unifying language.

Robert Rector's research at the Heritage Foundation has uncovered a Senate Immigration bill that would fundamentally transform America's culture, economy and political situation.
Between 1870 and 1920, the U.S. experienced a massive flow of immigration known as the “great migration”. During this period, foreign born persons hovered between 13 and 15 percent of the population. In 1924, Congress passed major legislation greatly reducing future immigration. By 1970, foreign born persons had fallen to 5 percent of the population.

In the last three decades, immigration has increased sharply. The foreign born now comprise around 12 percent of the population, approaching the levels of the early 1900’s. However, if CIRA were enacted, and 100 million new immigrants entered the country over the next twenty years, foreign born persons would rise to over one quarter of the U.S. population. There is no precedent for that level of immigration at any time in U.S. history.
I can't speak for the other hosts of this blog. But I am opposed to the Senate immigration bill. If I wanted to, I could explain my opposition by pointing to bill's provision which grant green cards to illegal immigrants who have been in the United States two years or more. Once an immigrant obtains a green card, he or she is eligible for all of America's social welfare programs but cannot vote or sit on juries.

But my opposition isn't entirely motivated by the fact that it rewards illegal behavior in the form of green cards and a "path to citizenship," as important as that objection is. I simply think that the bill requires America to absorb too many immigrants in too short of a time period. I suppose there is not magic number or percentage figure that can tell us when we are not accepting enough immigrants or naturalizing too many. If America's welfare state were less generous than it currently is, America would be able to absorb more immigration without a huge increase in cost to taxpayers.

It is also true that immigration isn't just a dollars and cents, economic issue. It's a cultural issue too. I'd be interested to hear your opinions on both legal and illegal immigration and a proposed guest worker program. Do you support more legal immigration? Would a guest worker program in America result in the same troubles that Europe experienced after the Second World War? And how concerned should Americans really be about the Mexico-US border and the cultural consequences of immigration?

UPDATE: Speaker Hastert might block immigration bill
Backers of President Bush's bid to revamp immigration laws scored another small victory in the Senate yesterday, but they are increasingly concerned about a House Republican policy that could block final agreement even if a bipartisan majority is within reach.

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's insistence that major legislation reach the House floor only if it appears to be backed by a "majority of the majority" could throw a high hurdle in front of efforts to reach a House-Senate compromise on immigration later this year, lawmakers said. Hastert (R-Ill.) has invoked the policy in blocking bills that appeared likely to win approval from more than half of the House's 435 members but less than half of its 231 Republicans.
Wait! It gets better.
Some GOP strategists predict a bill will emerge from the House-Senate conference that will win most House Republicans' approval but will draw the opposition of most Senate Democrats and enough Republicans to kill it. Senators know the bill they are handling "is not going to survive in conference," said Charles Black, a veteran GOP adviser with close ties to the White House. A measure closer to the House version will emerge, Black predicted, "and Senate Democrats will kill the conference report. And then who killed immigration reform?"
SECOND UPDATE: Two Washington Post news stories discuss the difficultly of reconciling the differing House and Senate immigration bills.

GOP Rep. Rejects 'Amnesty' for Migrants
The Senate plan to provide illegal immigrants with a shot at citizenship probably is a deal-breaker that will prevent passage of a compromise on immigration overhaul, the House's lead negotiator said Sunday.

"The words 'path to citizenship' is a buzzword for amnesty. We ought to be honest, it is amnesty," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Sensenbrenner says amnesty is a deal-breaker; Hagel says the Senate bill doesn't include amnesty.
Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., answered a flat "no" when asked Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" whether he would accept any legislation that would put illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship.

Sensenbrenner said the United States 20 years ago passed a bill that allowed illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. and become American citizens. He said that only increased the flow of illegal immigrants.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said the Senate took a comprehensive approach to dealing with illegal immigration, and he took issue with Sensenbrenner's characterization of the Senate's approach.

"Amnesty. That's nonsense," Hagel said.
Immigration Deal at Risk as House GOP Looks to Voters
Republican House members facing the toughest races this fall are overwhelmingly opposed to any deal that provides illegal immigrants a path to citizenship -- an election-year dynamic that significantly dims the prospects that President Bush will win the immigration compromise he is seeking, according to Republican lawmakers and leadership aides.
Hastert's "majority of the majority" standard could prevent a vote on an immigration bill that includes amnesty.
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) will not allow a vote on a House-Senate compromise that does not have the support of most GOP lawmakers or one that would undermine the reelection chances of his at-risk members, aides said. According to GOP lawmakers and strategists, about 75 percent of the 231 House Republicans are steadfastly opposed to the Senate bill or even a watered-down version of it.

Despite some national polls showing strong support for a comprehensive solution of the sort favored by Bush, nearly every GOP lawmaker interviewed for this article said the House plan to secure the borders and enforce existing immigration laws is unquestionably the safer political stand in his or her district. Many Democrats from vulnerable districts say the same thing, although the Democratic Caucus as a whole is more sympathetic to a Senate-style compromise.

Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.) said he told White House officials, who keep citing polls showing wide support for the Bush approach, that "they must not be polling anyone in the 2nd District."