Bush's immigration proposal is unwise

By Yeh Ling-Ling, Contra Costa Times, November 21, 2004

With the election just over, the Bush administration is resuming immigration talks with Mexico. President Bush would make a costly mistake if he believes that his re-election means strong support for his de facto amnesty proposal. Further, if passed, his plan would seriously exacerbate major problems of concern to Americans.

A November 2003 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press showed 76 percent of both Democrats and independents and 82 percent of Republicans wanted stricter immigration controls.

CBS News' Bob Schaeffer, the moderator of the third presidential debate, indicated on that occasion that he had received more e-mails on immigration than any other subject. In addition, not only did voters in Arizona handily pass an initiative aimed at deterring illegal immigration, voters in Georgia, Idaho, Colorado, and California are working to place similar measures on future ballots.

Numerous recent polls have shown that high health care costs, homeland security, and the economy were among the top concerns of voters as our schools, law enforcement agencies, hospitals, and labor markets are extremely overburdened.

Yet President Bush's deceptive plan would initially grant unlimited numbers of visas to foreign workers, low-skilled and professional, who are here illegally as well as those who are living abroad, as long as they can find employers willing to hire them.

Subsequently, those "temporary" workers could apply for U.S. citizenship.

In fact, more than 100,000 American programmers are still unemployed, not counting the underemployed, according to UC Davis Computer Science Professor Norman Matloff's study.

This country still has millions of able-bodied welfare recipients and unemployed low-skilled workers. Even so, once naturalized, unlimited numbers of newcomers under the Bush plan could petition for their extended families to immigrate to the United States, thus adding unlimited numbers of new students, job seekers, drivers, water and energy consumers, and social service recipients to this country through births and chain migration.

The link between immigration and high health care costs should not be ignored. Hospitals in many states are on the verge of bankruptcy due to the health care they are required by law to provide to illegal immigrants.

Based on the Center for Immigration Studies' analysis of the 2003 Current Population Survey conducted by the Census Bureau, immigrants arriving since 1998 and their U.S.-born children accounted for 95 percent of the growth of the uninsured population in this country. Millions of existing illegal migrant workers and their future family members arriving here under President Bush's plan would make health costs skyrocket.

If President Bush is a serious champion of moral values, he should not teach Americans the wrong values by rewarding illegal immigrants who have broken our laws with work permits and eventually U.S. citizenship.

Also, if he really wants education reform to work, he should restrict his "no child left behind" policy to legal resident children to further reduce immigration.

Indeed, according to the Census Bureau release dated Aug. 9, from 2000 to 2003, 21 percent of elementary and high school students had at least one foreign-born parent. American children are falling behind in education compared with those in Japan and many Western nations as many schools are overwhelmed with non-English-speaking students.

The president should learn a lesson from former Gov. Gray Davis, who signed legislation giving driver's licenses and in-state tuition to illegal immigrants in the hope of boosting his popularity. Last year, the Democratic governor lost his job to Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who pledged during the recall campaign to repeal the driver's license law.

Caving in to the cheap labor lobby and Mexico's pressure is politically and economically unwise.

Bush should listen to the public and immediately call for a substantial reduction in legal immigration, oppose all amnesty proposals, enforce immigration laws, and urge Congress to adopt legislation to make it illegal to grant benefits to illegal immigrants.

These steps are necessary so that this country can effectively address voters' concerns, save jobs and invest in Americans and legal immigrants who are already here.

Yeh is a resident of Orinda and is the executive director of Diversity Alliance for a Sustainable America.