There is no doubt that the sheer complexity of comprehensive immigration reform makes it a daunting topic to tackle. The now famous group formed within the U.S Senate to tackle the long overdue legislative reform, which adopted the title “the Gang of Eight,” created a bill called the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.” The Act consists of seven major components. Rather than addressing all seven contained within the 800-plus pages of the proposed legislation, I will debunk a number of popular myths used by conservative-minded opponents of progressive immigration reform to dissuade our population from sensibility and replace it with xenophobia.
It would reward those who broke the law:
Technically, this is true. The repeal of Prohibition also rewarded lawbreakers. When making a right turn on a red light was made legal, were those who had previously committed such reckless infractions suddenly rewarded?
Undocumented workers have little impetus to view themselves as lawbreakers in any meaningful sense. It is technically a violation of the immigration code to stay past one’s work visa expiration, but migrant workers have been doing that with our government’s understood consent for many years. Furthermore, it was the U.S. government’s participation in the NAFTA treaty that effectively decimated many Latin American labor markets making the United States a logical place to seek employment.
It would punish immigrants who followed the rules:
In fact, it would change the rules completely. An accurate metaphor would be the end of baseball season and the start of football season.
Immigrants will take American jobs:
Why would undocumented workers be any more likely to take jobs than documented workers? Furthermore, what advantages could an undocumented worker provide an employer than a documented one? Risk? Incentive for exploitation or tax evasion? The logic behind the South Park argument of “They took our jobs” simply does not hold water.
It would drain federal funds:
It is likely that the majority of undocumented immigrants pay taxes. Some pay via income or property. Most pay consumer taxes. Furthermore, immigration enforcement is very expensive, given that securing the border means beefed-up security measures. These efforts include $3 billion to the Department of Homeland Security for better fencing, increased border patrol agents, unmanned drones and drone operating staff, and increasing funding for border crossing prosecutions.
There are approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States out of a general population of 314 million. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and NumbersUSA both produced reports stating the many exorbitant expenses comprehensive immigration reform could incur. Both of these organizations and their studies were commissioned by biased, right-wing funding. No credible study has indicated that legalizing undocumented immigrants is likely to harm the economy. I hesitate to even mention the report commissioned by the right wing think-tank The Heritage Foundation, which insinuates that Latin Americans are incapable of achieving the same IQ levels as “native Americans,” meaning those of European decent.
It would change our American identity:
This is one of those cultural imperialistic exclamations of pure American naïve realism, also known as xenophobia and (dare I call it out?) racism. The vast majority of Americans are descended from immigrants. Even those who trace their genealogical pedigree to the Mayflower were running from one land and evicting the established occupants by force or extermination. We have no official language and the great lady who greeted so many of our grandparents and great grandparents declared by inscription:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
I have yet to notice any fine printed disclaimer under the Statue of Liberty’s credo, and I dare any constitutional literalist to bluster about their rights as an American, yet not stand by the words of Lady Liberty.
It could create a permanent Democratic majority
To quote that fine specimen of an American citizen, literary icon Biz Markie, “Oh snap, guess what I saw!” My suspicion is that the development of a strong and increasing population that trends overwhelmingly to the Democratic side of the bi-partisan spectrum is the only true rationale for preventing undocumented immigrants from achieving citizenship. Most undocumented immigrants are Latino, and most Latinos vote Democratic. Republicans have put on an hysterical show of trying to court the Latino vote and have failed spectacularly, and I find it extremely entertaining to watch. However, in the face of abysmal failure at old, white men foolishly trying to show how in touch they are with the same population they blatantly disenfranchise, the next best thing is to try and get them the hell out before they irreparably upset the voting curve.