Our View: Stop Arlen Specter's Amnesty

“It’s going to be an extraordinary debate filled with fear and guilt and racism and xenophobia,” said a former U.S. senator, as he attempted a blanket assassination of the characters of all those who simply want to secure our borders, enforce our immigration laws and do so without granting amnesty to immigration lawbreakers.

You might expect words like these to come from the mouth of a Democratic demagogue. But they didn’t. They came from the mouth of a flaky Republican.

Expensive Guests

They were attributed in the Philadelphia Inquirer last week to former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, whose most memorable act as a lawmaker was to sponsor the first illegal immigration amnesty, which passed Congress in 1986 amid promises from its supporters, including many conservatives, that it would once-and-for-all solve the problem of illegal immigration.

Last week, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) introduced a 21st Century version of Simpson’s amnesty plan. Conservatives must not be fooled again.

The key element in Specter’s 305-page bill is that it would convert illegal aliens already in the United States into legal “temporary” workers, without making them first return home. The immigration-law-breaking aliens granted Specter’s amnesty would be allowed to stay in the U.S. for six years. At the same time, Specter’s proposal would allow new, additional “temporary” workers to enter the United States, bringing their families with them.

Specter’s bill puts in legislative form the basic elements of the “guest-worker” plan proposed by President Bush during his first term, and then repeated in the President’s latest budget request, which calls for allowing “employers to hire legal foreign workers when no American is willing to take the job.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) has indicated he wants to bring up immigration reform by March 27, which means the greatest display of March madness this year may not be on the hardwood floors that host the NCAA basketball tournament but on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

There are many objections to a guest-worker/amnesty plan, and they have nothing to do with racism and xenophobia.

For starters, a plan that converts illegal aliens into legal temporary workers rewards lawbreakers with a prize of great value: the right to legally live and work in the world’s greatest nation. Not only is it wrong to reward an immigration lawbreaker this way, it is unjust to aliens who are trying to immigrate to the U.S. and have chosen to respect and abide by our law.

Secondly, a guest-worker/amnesty program is also unjust to U.S. citizens on the bottom rungs of the earnings ladder because it forces them to compete for jobs and wages with foreign nationals who will be allowed to come here only if they agree to work for lower wages than an American.

Thirdly, a guest-worker/amnesty program is double-barreled corporate welfare. It lets corporations import foreign laborers into the U.S. and pay them wages they could not hire an American worker for, while forcing American taxpayers to pick up the tab for the public services these low-wage foreign workers will consume. Taxpayers will not only subsidize the cost of “guest-worker” health care, but also pay the cost of educating “guest-worker” children. Indeed, these could end up being very expensive “guests” from taxpayers’ perspective.

Most importantly, a guest worker/amnesty program would exacerbate our greatest immigration problem, which is really a national security problem. In the midst of a war against terrorists, our government has failed to stem the massive, unmonitored flow of unknown persons crossing our borders. When foreign nationals now pondering illegally entering the U.S. learn that illegal aliens who went before them were granted legal status by an all-Republican government that prides itself on upholding the rule of law and putting national security above all other federal duties, it will provide a powerful new incentive for those aliens to come.

Sen. Simpson’s amnesty helped lead to the illegal immigration problem we have now. A Specter-Bush amnesty would lead to greater problems tomorrow.

The Republican House has passed an immigration reform bill that does not include a guest-worker/amnesty program, but does include tough new provisions for enforcing the immigration law on corporate scofflaws who hire illegal aliens. It also would build 700 miles of double-fencing along vulnerable stretches of the Mexican border to help Border Patrol agents defend our homeland.

That House bill deserves conservative support. What the Senate is beginning to contemplate does not. If you want to put an end to the March madness there, call your senators today at (202) 224-3121 and tell them: No amnesty, period. Just pass the House bill.