Ira Mehlman

There is an unwritten rule in Congress that the appropriations process should not be used to pass major legislation. So when the Senate Appropriations Committee makes an exception to this rule, you can bet that they are doing so only to deal with some burning crisis.

For the Senate Appropriations Committee to break with tradition, the interests at stake must be so compelling that circumstances demand that the cumbersome legislative process be bypassed and that the issue be dealt with immediately. And when the legislation gets tacked on to not just any old appropriations bill, but an emergency supplemental appropriations bill to fund our servicemen and women fighting in Iraq, one can assume that the most vital national interests hang in the balance.

What were the compelling interests that led the august Senate Appropriations Committee to include major legislation as part of the military spending bill on Thursday? Amnesty for illegal aliens, and lots of new foreign workers for powerful business interests.

In one afternoon, the Appropriations Committee approved amnesty for 1.35 million illegal alien agricultural workers, and made available an additional 650,000 skilled and unskilled foreign guest workers over the next three years. That’s 2 million new, or newly legalized, foreign workers entering our labor force over the next three years – even as our economy has been losing jobs.

The 2 million figure does not include the dependents of the amnesty recipients or new workers who could be admitted under existing agricultural guest worker programs. Under the agricultural amnesty – written by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) at the behest of the California agricultural lobby – the spouses of amnesty recipients will also be authorized to compete with American workers for jobs in any sector of our labor market. Nor does it include the potentially unlimited number of new guest workers agricultural employers will be able to import under a “streamlined” H-2A program that requires the Department of Labor to issue visas within seven days of an employer’s request.

Just to be extra sure that the agriculture industry will get their workers as cheaply as possible, Sen. Feinstein threw in a provision that freezes wages for these farm workers at 2007 levels.

Ira Mehlman

Ira Mehlman is the Media Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.