On Capitol Hill, events related to the congressional amnesty debate are unfolding at breakneck pace. Last week, the Obama administration authorized the release from federal detention centers of 10,000 criminal aliens. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano hinted at the move in her press conference when she disingenuously bemoaned how sequestration would force her to cut border patrol agents.
For President Obama, the aliens’ release represents a two-for-the-price-of-one. First, Obama is reminding House Republicans that he intends to play tough on the budget negotiations. And second, the president sent the nation a message that he wants his way on amnesty — or else.
House Speaker John Boehner summed up what most Americans feel about releasing criminal aliens — “outrageous.” Boehner added what’s also obvious when he told CBS News that it’s “hard to believe” that cuts couldn’t have been found elsewhere.
At a meeting of the Republican Attorneys General Association, members charged Obama with overstepping his powers while at the same time reneging on his sworn constitutional responsibility to uphold the nation’s laws.
Actually, DHS’s blatant discharge of aliens extends the administration’s existing policy to release them under the radar. Two years ago, Obama introduced prosecutorial discretion, a DHS measure that authorized the release of certain so called “low-priority” aliens.
Then in 2012, the administration followed up with another related program — deferred action for childhood arrivals. Although most of the 16- to 30-year olds weren’t in detention, Obama’s executive order removed them from possible deportation.
Although bad news is plentiful, this week might mark a turning point for enforcement advocates. Until now, the media and the Washington, D.C.-based amnesty lobby have enjoyed a field day promoting their agenda. And without any specific congressional legislation to respond to, amnesty detractors have remained in the background while patiently waiting to go on the offensive.
Through his unilateral release of illegal immigrants, Obama provided his opponents with abundant fodder. On top of that, two new, non-partisan studies might dissuade Republicans who fool-heartedly support amnesty.
One argument is that to survive politically, GOP legislators must reach out to Hispanics. Amnesty, so the erroneous theory goes, translates to Hispanic votes. But the latest of several polls reached the same conclusion: Gallop found that the GOP cannot reasonably expect to increase its Latino vote share to greater than 25 percent. Latinos historically vote Democratic; younger Hispanics are more liberal and more likely to vote Democratic than their parents, according to Gallop.
The most compelling evidence: In the 1988 presidential election that followed Ronald Reagan’s 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act amnesty, Vice President George H.W. Bush, despite having aggressively backed the bill, won only 30 percent of Hispanics. Twenty years later, John McCain, one of today’s notorious “Gang of Eight” and co-sponsor of the 2005 Kennedy–McCain amnesty act, garnered only 31 percent.
While parsing election statistics might be a pastime for political wonks, amnesty’s costs will open every American’s eye. Robert Rector, a Heritage Foundation scholar, noted that 50 to 60 percent of immigrants are high school dropouts and 75 to 80 percent have only a high school education. Rector predicted that taxpayers end up subsidizing amnesty to the tune of at least $2.5 trillion above whatever taxes aliens might pay in.
In 2007, when President George W. Bush’s amnesty proposal loomed, Rector studied the data on immigrant households. According to Rector’s research, the average immigrant household headed by a non-high school graduate received $30,000 in government benefits but contributed $10,000 in consumption and income taxes. Rector calculated that the then-$20,000 net deficit per alien household would be “significantly higher now.”
In short, amnesty’s advertised benefits to Republicans — Hispanic votes — is a pipe dream. But amnesty’s cost to a bankrupt nation would be crippling.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986.