“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-tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The Senate is very close to voting in favour of a huge historic overhaul to the US immigration system. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is sure that the Bill is close to reaching 70 votes in the Senate.
And then there’s Rand Paul.
An interesting figure.
One of the many Republicans who think too highly of themselves, seem to be under the impression that they have the House, Senate, and White House under their personal control, and that the country is entirely painted – not just red – but with his face on it. But also a Republican who uses the term ‘border security‘ as shorthand for ‘I don’t want 11 million undocumented workers to have a pathway to citizenship because they’ll definitely vote against my Party for our history of prejudice against them…… can we stop gays voting too?‘
Four days ago, Paul introduced an amendment to the Immigration Bill in the Senate, designed to take away the pathway to citizenship and make it just as difficult as ever for undocumented workers to apply for citizenship. The amendment, would allow undocumented workers the right to be in the US, and to apply through the new Registered Provisional Immigrants visa, but they would be treated as if they were the same as someone wishing to immigrate, living in their home country.
As a UK citizen myself, I hope one day to be afforded an opportunity to emigrate to the US (Seriously, someone employ me!) though I accept that I certainly shouldn’t be afforded the same opportunity as those already in the US, who have contributed to the US over the years, who consider themselves American, who escaped to a better life in the US, and simply want to be treated the same under the law as Rand Paul.
Yesterday, Rand Paul told CNN that he will vote against the Immigration Bill, because it doesn’t provide the border security he wishes to see. This, despite concession after concession made to Republicans obsessed with derailing a pathway to citizenship for workers that they consider a threat to their party. The concessions include a significant raising from 21,000 border agents in the original bill, to 40,000 border agents in the new bill; a massive increase in funding for surveillance including aerial drones; and 700 extra miles of border fence, at a cost of $30bn; apparently this doesn’t count as expanding the role of big government.
One wonders what exactly Paul wishes to see, what added security? Mines? The military patrolling the border? Paul is simply moving the goalposts. His latest demand – which received unanimous cross-party rejection from the 8 members responsible for the Bill – was to see Congress be responsible for deciding whether the border was more secure, year on year, for a five year period. Moving the goalposts. The concessions made provide the border security that Republicans complained was missing from the original bill. Border security is now ramped far more than before, despite increases in funding for border security over the past decade and half, proving ineffective at best.
As always, Republicans get their concessions, but wish to concede nothing themselves.
Rand Paul, in voting against the Bill, is voting against Senator Brian Schatz’s (D-HI) amendment, that would allow those people displaced by climate disasters, who are rendered stateless, to be granted conditional legal status in the US. Schatz explained the amendment:
“We have an obligation not to deport people back to a country made uninhabitable by sea level rise and other extreme environmental changes that render these states desolate.”
– For me, this seems perfectly reasonable, compassionate, and based on humanitarian concerns. This is most notable, given that according to World Resources Institute estimates, almost 30 percent of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions since 1850, is the responsibility of the US. Islands across the globe are threatened with extinction through climate disasters. Rand Paul does not believe the USA, with its history of affording, what Emma Lazarus so beautifully referred to as “your huddled masses”, has any responsibility for protecting the most vulnerable.
A recent study by the Hamilton Project on the economics of immigration reform, shows that the reforms have significant benefits, not just for immigrants, but also for American citizens. They note:
“…immigrants create average wage increases of between 0.1 percent and 0.6 percent for American workers.”
“The most recent academic research suggests that, on average, immigrants raise the overall standard of living of American workers by boosting wages and lowering prices. One reason is that immigrants and U.S.-born workers generally do not compete for the same jobs; instead many immigrants complement the work of U.S. employees and increase their productivity. For example, low-skill immigrant laborers allow U.S.-born farmers, contractors, or craftsmen to expand agricultural production or to build more homes—thereby expanding employment possibilities and incomes for U.S. workers. Another reason is that businesses adjust to new immigrants by opening stores, restaurants, or production facilities to take advantage of the added supply of workers; more workers translate into more business.”
“Taxes paid by immigrants and their children—both legal and unauthorized—exceed the costs of the services they use. In fact, a 2007 cost estimate by the Congressional Budget Office found that a path to legalization for unauthorized immigrants would increase federal revenues by $48 billion but would only incur $23 billion of increased costs from public services, producing a surplus of $25 billion for government coffers.”
“Today’s immigrants possess a strong entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, immigrants are 30 percent more likely to form new businesses than U.S.-born citizens.”
– So, people wishing for a better life, an on average wage increase for American workers, new businesses, a rise in overall living standards of American workers, and an increase in Federal revenues by $25bn. They help to boost economic activity, they help to create jobs, they help with economic stability, and they themselves live better lives. it would seem that the only reason to keep moving the goalposts on immigration reform, is for the sake of votes. Rand Paul, with his idea to allow undocumented workers to stay, but insist they apply in the same way as someone who has never even been to the US but may wish to emigrate, is clutching desperately at straws, to save votes. He is playing with lives, for the sake of Party politics. He wishes to be allowed to keep on benefiting economically and socially from immigration, from people who have been exploited for years to help build American businesses….. Paul insists his plan will indeed allow those people to stay (how lovely of him) but not to gain a pathway to citizenship. The only reason to be so, not just mean spirited, but horrendous spirited, is for the sake of votes. Perhaps this desperation would not have been necessary, had the GOP a better record on its treatment of minorities.
One would think that any GOP attempt to derail the bill either in the Senate or the House, will only result in further alienation of Hispanic voters. I’d suggest it could also lead to widespread anger and political activism aimed at the Republicans, at a time when they need to be showing even a little progression and modernising. Killing the Bill could prove to be far more politically toxic, than letting it pass. It would be political suicide.
Let’s be clear, Rand is not prepared to derail such an important bill, simply because he wishes to see Congress in control of deciding whether the border in more secure year on year. That’s a smokescreen. His issue, is votes. This will also be the hidden reason the House Republicans kick up a fuss in the coming months.
Those who opposed immigration reform based solely on border security, no longer have that to hide behind. They must now admit that this is about citizenship. And there really is no reasonable excuse to oppose a pathway to citizenship.
The US immigration system is broken. It may be that the border needs strengthening. Perhaps so. But primarily, it is about people, and families, and lives. There are millions who simply wish to live a better life, and provide a better existence for their family. They wish to reunite with family. They did not ask to be born in countries that do not afford them the opportunities they so desperately wish for. They do not seek climate disaster. They did not seek poverty, nor lack of basic human needs or infrastructure. They did not seek corrupt governments and political irrelevance. They wish for America, to find work, to start businesses, to raise families, to pay taxes, to contribute to an economic recovery, to contribute culturally. They wish to be the people that the grandparents and great grandparents of American citizens were, 100 years ago and before. They should not face exploitation at the hands of employers wishing to gain advantage. They should not be split from family. They should not feel that due to their place of birth, they are less than worthy to be called American. It makes sense to offer a path to citizenship for them and their families, and to offer the stability they need to set down their roots in a country that they wish to be a part of. It is about people. It should not be about votes.
Now, someone in the US employ me.