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By David Podvin
The Hagel-Martinez Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 is a swindle wrapped in a deception inside a lie. Although marketed as immigration reform, the bill provides corporate welfare on an unprecedented scale. Hagel-Martinez is a historically significant bait and switch that will diminish the prosperity of the average citizen.
The goal of this malignant legislation is to restructure the American economy. Since it is logistically impossible for Corporate America to export all lower income jobs, business yearns to fill those positions with cheap imported labor. Under Hagel-Martinez, legal immigration will double and the percentage of work visas going to unskilled laborers will more than triple. Given that low cost workers are being recruited specifically to reduce the wage scale, the immigrants will not be making enough money nor paying sufficient taxes to pull their own weight. Subsidizing the social program needs of the Fortune 500’s burgeoning coolie workforce will be the responsibility of the middle class.
Enactment of Hagel-Martinez will also ensure that illegal migration continues unabated. The bill features a three-tiered illegal immigrant classification system replete with convoluted incentives and illusory penalties. Yet shed of its rhetorical camouflage the Hagel-Martinez enforcement approach becomes recognizable as the “honor system”. In theory, there will be varying rules for illegal immigrants based upon how long they have been here. However, the bill does not provide statutory guidance for proof of tenure, thereby rendering the entire process farcical.
As outlined by Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), his Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act “requires that any illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. five years or more would have to pay a $3,250 fine and back taxes, pass national security and criminal background checks, prove they have worked for at least 3 years, register for military service, demonstrate knowledge of English and American civics and work an additional six years. Illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. between two and five years must leave the U.S. and return through a port of entry in order to obtain a temporary work visa and meet the same requirements as those who have been in the country more than five years. Illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. less than two years must voluntarily return home or be deported.”
It is all nonsense. Illegal immigrants who fail to comply theoretically run the risk of being deported, but they are already subject to being deported so the deterrent effect is nonexistent. And in the unlikely event of deportation, those who have been expelled could simply stroll right back into the United States. Hagel-Martinez maintains the current revolving door policy by demanding that America and Mexico consult prior to constructing any border barriers. Should Mexico demur (which is guaranteed) George W. Bush intends to build a “virtual fence” that will stop “virtually no one”.
Hagel-Martinez stipulates that the employers of illegal immigrants who apply for permanent residence status will be granted immunity for having defrauded the system. American citizens who misuse Social Security numbers risk incurring a huge fine and federal imprisonment, but under the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act those penalties will not apply to undocumented workers or their employers. Facilitating fraud seems incongruous in an immigration reform bill until one understands that Hagel-Martinez is not an immigration reform bill. It is a foreign labor recruitment bill.
Should the legislation become law, the Department of Homeland Security will be allotted ninety days to perform extensive background checks on more than ten million undocumented residents. This provision was included to reassure skeptical Americans that the government would be performing appropriate due diligence. The problem becomes apparent when pencil is put to paper. Performing background checks on ten million applicants in three months means investigating over one hundred thousand people per day (approximately 4,166 per hour), assuming the folks at Homeland Security don’t mind working nonstop.
The background check charade is one of many inducements intended to encourage illegal immigration. Businesses that have shortchanged the government on the payroll taxes of undocumented workers would be excused. Anyone here illegally could apply for hardship deferrals from deportment, requirements of which are unspecified and therefore superfluous. The families of illegal immigrants who seek citizenship would be allowed into the United States without meeting standard health requirements.
The Hagel-Martinez scam shares many attributes with the scandalous Simpson-Mazzoli Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Simpson-Mazzoli also provided amnesty to illegal immigrants while promising to punish the employers who hired them. Like Hagel-Martinez, it pledged to strengthen border security. After Simpson-Mazzoli became law, the amnesty provisions were implemented while the enforcement provisions were not. Big Business won as the real wages of workers fell. American taxpayers lost as the cost of providing social services skyrocketed.
Like Simpson-Mazzoli, the current legislation would be administered by the corporate-friendly federal bureaucracy that has long refused to honor immigration law. Supporters trumpet that Hagel-Martinez authorizes the hiring of approximately 20,000 new immigration personnel. What they choose not to mention is that the executive branch possesses the funding to bolster the Immigration Service but has steadfastly declined, just as it is authorized to punish scofflaw employers but invariably refuses.
As in 1986 the written enforcement terms of American immigration “reform” have no real world significance. The corporate/political complex is again deceiving the public about getting tough on border security. The entire process from deliberation to enactment to implementation is performance art wherein elected representatives feign representing the people who elected them.
There is a provision of Hagel-Martinez that actually will be implemented, and that is the one increasing legal immigration. The stated rationale is that the bill will end illicit migration, thereby enabling the United States to welcome more documented immigrants. The real rationale is to screw the working class to the maximum extent possible. With illegal immigration enduring and legal immigration doubling, blue-collar citizens will soon be visiting the vocational gallows.
The victimization of the American people is being perpetrated with immense contempt. John McCain claims that anyone opposing Hagel-Martinez is a racist who wants Hispanics to “ride in the back of the American bus”. That certainly would be racist because thanks to corporatist demagogues like McCain the American bus is headed off the financial cliff. With living standards declining and workplace environments deteriorating the self-righteous McCain has decided that the national priority must be to provide business with cheaper labor.
Such moral squalor is bipartisan. The authors of Hagel-Martinez are Republican, but most of the legislation’s supporters are Democrats. Thirty-eight Democratic senators supported this bill that is toxic for the Democratic rank and file. These are the same self-styled populists who voted for the international trade agreements that have outsourced many of their voters’ jobs. From the standpoint of Senate Democrats, Hagel-Martinez can be viewed as the legislative equivalent of euthanasia. Having already imposed great suffering on the defenseless working people who vote Democratic, Harry Reid and the gang are now applying the coup de grâce.
Some prominent labor unions and Hispanic rights organizations are also backstabbing the lower income citizens they are sworn to defend. Sensing that a huge new influx of immigrants would swell membership rolls, organizations like the Service Employees International Union and the National Council of La Raza have endorsed Hagel-Martinez in the name of human rights. It is modern liberalism’s recurring modus operandi: invoking principle to justify abandoning principle.
American workers find themselves in the tenuous position of hoping that right wing congressmen will save the day. Bush is eager to sign Hagel-Martinez, so only the GOP-controlled House of Representatives can stop the bill from becoming law. House Republicans have passed the Sensenbrenner Border And Immigration Enforcement Act that contains punitive measures business abhors even though most of the punishment would be inflicted on migrants. Next comes a House-Senate conference to reconcile the legislative divide.
Congress will eventually produce a reasonable facsimile of Hagel-Martinez because Democratic politicians are not the only ones who view their voters disdainfully. The Republican congressmen who passed Sensenbrenner did so knowing it would never become law. The bill was an empty gesture designed to placate the conservative base that is infuriated by illegal immigration. The relevant factors in the upcoming negotiations will be that Corporate America prefers the Senate version and Corporate America underwrites the Grand Old Party. Usually, those considerations would have meant quick House passage of Hagel-Martinez, but this is an election year so Republican voters had to be temporarily pacified. Already there are indications that the GOP will manufacture a pretext to avoid addressing the issue until a lame duck congressional session can safely give business what it wants.
There exists a solution to illegal immigration. Employers must be required to verify the Social Security numbers of their workers, and any employer who hires someone lacking valid identification must be imprisoned. This approach places the burden where it belongs…on the person doing the hiring. As soon as a few chairmen of high profile companies begin doing hard time other employers will be intimidated into compliance. Unable to secure employment, undocumented workers will lose their reason for being here and return home voluntarily. Market forces will then dictate that business offer citizens whatever pay is needed to secure their labor. The result will be rising real wages for average Americans, and that occurrence has always benefited the United States as a whole.
But the current immigration debate has nothing to do with benefiting the United States as a whole. The myopic corporations that have hijacked national politics care only about maximizing short-term profits. They are indifferent to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs, or in this case destroying the working class that drives the world’s most powerful economy. As a result, American laborers of all ethnicities are circling the drain together.
Hagel-Martinez will expedite that fate. By increasing legal immigration it lures low cost foreign workers to pressure wages downward. By maintaining an-ever growing illegal immigrant population it secures a permanent underclass that can be relentlessly exploited. The intended consequence is for multinational conglomerates to grow ever richer as the United States grows ever poorer. Big Business already dominates virtually all there is to dominate in America, but for the buccaneers of industry having almost everything is not nearly enough.
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