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Updating misguided immigration reform efforts

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Posted: Saturday, January 26, 2013 12:00 am

Here's an update on how amnesty supporters refer to their cause. Outdated are "comprehensive immigration reform" and "legalization." The latest trendy phrase is "path to citizenship," no doubt the result of market research into what resonates best among those Americans whom amnesty advocates need to convince. "Amnesty," suggestive of forgiving criminals, offends. The softer "path to citizenship" may resonate positively with the undecided.

In the meantime, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he plans to "carry the message to Washington" to advocate for what he perceives as an urgent need for amnesty. Brown's enthusiasm for an eventual Senate Democratic amnesty bill is hardly surprising, since during the last two years he's supported driver's licenses for aliens, endorsed in-state tuition and Cal Grants for college-age alien students, and signed a bill that nullified E-Verify.

According to Brown, since California has nearly 3 million illegal immigrants that account for about a quarter of the nation's total alien population, making them citizens is imperative. As citizens, they could more easily find jobs and would qualify for more expansive social service eligibility.

Brown's logic is, to describe it mildly, tortured. Because California has more illegal immigrants than any other state, Brown should be arguing against amnesty, because it will only add to his already considerable budget and unemployment headaches.

For most of the last decade, California has racked up annual budget deficits in excess of $10 billion to which immigration, both legal and illegal, has made a significant contribution. Public school education alone may account for $10 billion per year. Only brutal, across-the-board spending cuts keep California's deficit from soaring past the $20 billion mark.

Analyzing federal data published by the Census Bureau and the Current Population Survey, the Center for Immigration Studies found that California's immigrant welfare use is high and its education level low. Nearly 40 percent of all immigrant-headed California households participate in at least one welfare program. Among 19-year-old immigrants, 29 percent have not graduated from high school, a grim statistic that is linked to California having the nation's least-educated workforce.

Amnesty would hurt California not only directly — by making its current illegal residents legal (and thus joband welfare-eligible) — but also indirectly. Eventually, the new citizens can petition to bring their relatives, a process called "chain migration" that would add to California's already overpopulated condition.

Ironically, amnesty would negatively impact Hispanic-Americans more than any ethnic group. Consider these daunting nationwide Hispanic employment statistics taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics but conveniently overlooked by amnesty proponents: 1 in 4 Hispanics lives in poverty, 2 million more than impoverished African-Americans. Hispanic-American's broad unemployment rate — what BLS refers to as the U-6 category, which includes discouraged workers who have given up looking for jobs and those forced into part-time jobs — is 19 percent.

Amnesty would also grant work authorization to millions previously unemployable because of their immigration status, and would devastate Hispanics. Competition with new immigrants for jobs is most intense for Hispanics under 30 without a college degree. The U-6 unemployment rate is 28 percent for Hispanics with a high school diploma, 40 percent for those without a degree and 45 percent for teens looking for their first job. Adding roughly 11 million new workers into a market already saturated with unemployed Americans of all ages and ethnicities is unconscionable.

If the unthinkable happens and amnesty passes, no lessons will have been learned from the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, at the time disingenuously referred to as a "one-time amnesty." Millions more than the estimated 2.7 million received amnesty. Fraud, especially in the Special Agricultural Worker category, was unchecked.

The bottom line: Amnesty encourages more illegal immigration, which in turn begets future amnesties.

Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008 after a 25-year career teaching English as a Second Language. Contact him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

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