It's lucky America has over two centuries of mostly calm experience with self-government. We are going to need to fall back on that invaluable patrimony if the immigration debate continues as it has started this season. The Senate is attempting to legislate into the teeth of the will of the American public. The Senate Judiciary committeemen -- and probably a majority of the Senate -- are convinced that they know that the American people don't know what is best for them.
National polling data could not be more emphatic -- and has been so for decades. A Gallup poll (March 27, 2006) finds 80 percent of the public wants federal government to get tougher on illegal immigration. A Quinnipiac University Poll (March 3, 2006) finds 62 percent oppose making it easier for illegals to become citizens (72 percent in that poll don't even want illegals to be permitted to have driver's licenses).
Time magazine's recent poll (Jan. 24-26, 2006) found 74 percent favor "major penalties" on employers of illegals, and 70 percent believe illegals increase the likelihood of terrorism. Fifty-seven percent would use military force at the Mexican-American border.
NBC/Wall St. Journal's poll (March 10-13, 2006) found 59 percent opposing a guest worker proposal. Seventy-one percent would more likely vote for a congressional candidate who would tighten immigration controls.
An IQ Research poll (Mach 10, 2006) found 92 percent saying that securing the U.S. border should be a top priority of The White House and Congress.
Yet, according to a National Journal survey of Congress, 73 percent of Republican and 77 percent of Democratic congressmen and senators say they would support guest-worker legislation.
I commend to all those presumptuous senators and congressmen the sardonic and wise words of Edmund Burke in his 1792 Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe: "No man will assert seriously, that when people are of a turbulent spirit, the best way to keep them in order is to furnish them with something substantial to complain of."
The senators should remember that they are American senators, not Roman proconsuls. Nor is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee some latter-day Praetor Maximus.
But if they would be dictators, it would be nice if they could at least be wise (until such time as the people can electorally forcefully project with a violent pedal thrust their regrettable backsides out of town).
It was gut-wrenching (which in my case is a substantial event) to watch the senators prattle on in their idle ignorance concerning the manifold economic benefits that will accrue to the body politic if we can just cram a few million more uneducated illegals into the country. (I guess ignorance loves company.)
Beyond the Senate last week, in a remarkable example of intellectual integrity (in the face of the editorial positions of their newspapers) the chief economic columnists for the New York Times and the Washington Post -- Paul Krugman and Robert Samuelson, respectively -- laid out the sad facts regarding the economics of the matter. Senators, congressmen and Mr. President, please take note.
Regarding the Senate's and the president's guest worker proposals, The Post's Robert Samuelson writes:
"Gosh, they're all bad ideas. ... We'd be importing poverty. This isn't because these immigrants aren't hardworking; many are. Nor is it because they don't assimilate; many do. But they generally don't go home, assimilation is slow and the ranks of the poor are constantly replenished. ... [it] is a conscious policy of creating poverty in the United States while relieving it in Mexico ... "
"The most lunatic notion is that admitting more poor Latino workers would ease the labor market strains of retiring baby boomers ... Far from softening the social problems of an aging society, more poor immigrants might aggravate them by pitting older retirees against younger Hispanics for limited government benefits.
"[Moreover] It's a myth that the U.S. economy 'needs' more poor immigrants. The illegal immigrants already here represent only about 4.9 percent of the labor force." (For all of Mr. Samuelson's supporting statistics, see his Washington Post column of March 22, 2006, from which this is taken.)
Likewise, a few days later, the very liberal and often partisan Paul Krugman of the New York Times courageously wrote:
"Unfortunately, low-skill immigrants don't pay enough taxes to cover the cost of the [government] benefits they receive ... As the Swiss writer Max Frisch wrote about his own country's experience with immigration, 'We wanted a labor force, but human beings came."
Krugman also observed -- citing a leading Harvard study -- "that U.S. high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren't for Mexican immigration. That's why it's intellectually dishonest to say, as President Bush does, that immigrants 'do jobs that Americans will not do.' The willingness of Americans to do a job depends on how much that job pays -- and the reason some jobs pay too little to attract native-born Americans is competition from poorly paid immigrants."
Thusly do the two leading economic writers for the nation's two leading liberal newspapers summarily debunk the economic underpinning of the president's and the Senate's immigration proposals.
Under such circumstances, advocates of guest worker/amnesty bills will find it frustratingly hard to defend their arrogant plans by their preferred tactic of slandering those who disagree with them as racist, nativist and xenophobic. When the slandered ones include not only the Washington Post and the New York Times, but about 70 percent of the public, it is not only bad manners, but bad politics.
The public demand to protect our borders will triumph sooner or later. And, the more brazen the opposing politicians, the sooner will come the triumph. So legislate on, you proud and foolish senators, and hasten your political demise.