08/15/2012 02:44 pm ET Updated Oct 15, 2012

Reagan/Bush Amnesty Agenda an Economic Catastrophe for Minorities and Legal Immigrants

In 1986, President Reagan ushered in the first of the great immigration amnesty bills, offering amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants in return for assurances that border security would be tightened, and employers would be rigorously prosecuted for hiring illegal immigrants.

We all know the consequences of this first great amnesty bill and those that followed: millions more illegal immigrants were lured into the U.S. in hopes of future amnesties (many to agonizing deaths in the desert), flooding the unskilled labor pool and reducing minorities and legal immigrants to poverty and economic desperation. Meanwhile, to no one's surprise, border security was neglected, and Big Business, in the pursuit of cheap labor and high profits, vigorously resisted all attempts at immigration job enforcement, particularly any means of enforcement, which would actually work to preserve jobs for minorities and legal immigrants, such as e-verify.

In the 1970s, for example, office buildings in Los Angeles hired union workers as janitors, paying high wages and substantial health and other benefits. Thengreedy businessmen thirsty for cheap labor and high profits began to hire independent contractors who in turn hired illegal immigrants. Within a year, wages were cut by two-thirds and benefits were eliminated.

In 1987, at a time when teenage unemployment among African Americans approached 80 percent [1] , greedy garment makers petitioned the INS to import more cheap labor on grounds that there was an "unskilled labor shortage", repeating the tired mantra that "Americans won't do the dirty work that illegal immigrants are willing to do"-- ignoring the fact that it isn't the dirty jobs that Americans disdain. Cities have no problem recruiting for the dirtiest of jobs, like garbage collection, when decent wages are offered. Most Americans would be willing to pay a few cents more for their tomatoes if it meant social justice for minorities and the legal immigrants who have been reduced to grinding poverty by the Reagan/Bush amnesty agenda.

Few did not see through President Bush's lame claim that his immigration plan was not amnesty because illegals would pay a $500 fine in order return for being allowed to jump the line for legal residency in front of the teeming millions waiting many years for legal entry, paying thousands for physical exams andbackground checks, or trying to a win a million to one immigration lottery. Why risk winning the lottery, when a winning ticket can be earned by illegal entry, identity theft, and felonious forgery of social security cards and other government documents in order to gain jobs that reduce wages of legal immigrants and minorities?

As immigration researcher Gary Imhoff has observed, illegal immigration "widens the differences between classes in the U.S.; it keeps down the price of hiring a maid or gardener for the rich while it makes thing more desperate for the poor."

Meanwhile, Big Business and many populist politicians seeking votes have adopted the Reagan/Bush amnesty agenda, apparently ignorant of a poll by Hispanic Opinion and Preference Research showing that "70 percent of Hispanics do not want Latin Americans given preferential treatment in immigration," or an INS poll showing that only 11 percent of Hispanics would like to see more visas granted for people from Mexico." [2] Despite the fact that our public schools notoriously fail to teach macro-economics, and in particular how the laws of labor supply and demand affect wages, most minorities and legal immigrants do understand the devastating effects of illegal immigration that has reduced so many of them to grinding poverty.

Perhaps most puzzling, Big Business and populist politicians continue to demand even more of the Reagan/Bush-type amnesty programs as the only means of "fixing" the illegal immigration problem, while at the same time disdaining the plan of Romney and other moderate immigration reformers to "make legal immigration more attractive than illegal immigration."

Anything but that!


[1] Robert Hardaway, Population, Law, and the Environment (Praeger, 1994), 138.
[2] Robert Hardaway, Population, Law, and the Environment (Praeger, 1994), 142