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Senate Immigration Proposal: Boondoggle Upon Boondoggle

Statue of Liberty"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

Long ago in what seems like another country, they used to quote these familiar words on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty to assure us that the U.S. was a wonderful, welcoming refuge for miserable wretches from other lands. (We also learned in school that Lady Liberty herself was a gift from France, long ago in another country, before politicians and pundits started to hate Frenchmen because they opposed our invasion of Iraq.)

The latest U.S. Senate proposal on immigration stands the idea of huddled masses on its head. Instead of huddled masses, it includes a point system in which education and jobs skills would be used as criteria for immigrants. No more huddled masses. The new motto is "Give us your well-educated, better off folks so that they can help put their talents to work strengthening the American economy." In other words, join in the brain drain from your own country, and let your tired, poor masses huddle, where they belong."

Aside from the ethics, the new proposal is also loaded with multibillion boondoggles, one of which we've already exposed here as a $49 billion waste of taxpayers' money and a possible environmental disaster: the fence on the Mexican border.,

Oh, the new proposal shortens the fence from 700 to 370 miles, presumably bringing down the cost to around $25 billion. The big contractors in the Bechtel-Halluburton league must be disappointed.

Yes, this is the wonderful, feel-good bipartisan effort on immigration that politicians and journalists are now crowing about, wanting us to feel warm and fuzzy about their wisdom and ability to compromise. Yes, guys, that's quite a brilliant piece of legislative craft, make the fence half as long.

Another boondoggle in the Senate proposal that will waste billions is its education component. Apparently to satisfy the English-only fanatics, there will be a requirement for immigrants to learn English. Yes, come hell or high water, they're going to learn English. Even if they're working 12 hours a day, by God they're gonna learn good English. Let their kids run the streets while they're toiling with English prepositions and relative pronouns in night school. Why bother training up Arabic-speaking spies to infiltrate terrorist cells when we can make them learn English.

As we also pointed out in the article mentioned above, that there is no reason to force anybody to learn English. Immigrants can manage well enough without English, thank you, just as they did 150 years ago. (Their children will learn it much faster than immigrant's children used to, thanks to radio, television, and more accessible schools.)

Who's going to benefit from this mandatory English? Of course, the people who are in the business of selling education, educational programs, educational consultants, computers, textbooks, and language learning and teaching devices, program designs,  etc. Oh, and then they'll need more funding develop and sell tests to find out why the language instruction isn't working, why specific subgroups are lagging behind, and they'll be coming around for more money to upgrade the instructional material. There will even be some handwringing and soul-searching, followed by special studies to find out why poor Juan, the 50-year-old Guatemalan bricklayer, just can't get up to speed with his English. And so, more money will be ripped off from public education to be spent pounding English into the heads of people who don't need or even particularly want it.

On top of all these boondoggles, our bipartisans propose what will be a hefty handout to the computer corporations, which will provide the hardware and software and software consulting to keep tabs on immigrants through an electronic employment system. You can only imagine how much money--and data--this will swallow. Picture an immigrant bureaucrat locating Juan and calling to inform him that according to the information in the database he will have to return to Guatemala because he has not met the required standards for English. This, of course, after Juan has received the minimum required 3 computer-generated notices of his deficiency.

Oh, and besides the fence, they want 9,000 more troops for the Border Patrol. Well, after all, with that puny shorter fence you'll need more troops. Presumably the cost of this will be added onto the  $7.8 billion for border protection already proposed in George Bush's budget. This will cost another $2.75 billion or so, judging by the numbers in this budget. (If you want to play with the math, visit

You will notice that in the latest reports there is no mention of what the immigration proposal will cost. Presumably some of the funding would be extracted from some of the 12 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the country. They would get legal status if they can prove residency and pay a $5,000 fine for processing and legal fees. The problem is, if they actually had that kind of loot they might just pack up and return to their home countries.

This, after all, is what lots of immigrants have done in the past. Contrary to the myth that immigrants in the good old days came here and kissed the soil and vowed to be loyal Americans, the fact is that many of them went back to their homelands. From 1907 to 1911, 73% of the Italians who arrived went back to Italy. For Southern and Eastern Europe as a whole, 44 percent of those who came returned home. That percent would've been higher if it weren't for the fact that so many of the Jews who arrived had nothing to go back to because of persecution in Eastern Europe. And the Jews didn't reject their heritage for some pious patriotism. After all, by 1915 they had five daily newspapers in Yiddish with a combined circulation of half a million in New York City alone. So much for the absurd claim that forcing everybody into the English-only mode is essential to create a productive and informed citizen.

The last thing we should do is allow the Congress to do is rush into a "resolution" if the "immigration crisis" because they claim to have crafted a solution or because, well, everybody, maybe even Lou Dobbs, is getting bored with the topic. We ought to take a hard look at what it's going to cost. At this time all you and I know, it might end up being cheaper to hand every illegal immigrant a wad of cash in exchange for leaving the country, which would probably make Lou Dobbs very unhappy, indeed, since he would no longer have anyone to blame for all the problems in this country.

May 18, 2007

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