Then-House Speaker John Boehner deep-sixed the Senate’s 2013 amnesty-and-cheap-labor bill because he was afraid that only 40 GOP legislators would support an amnesty which gave citizenship to illegals, according to Politico.
Politico’s questionable report is Boehner’s first public explanation for why he blocked the hugely ambitious bill, which was passed by all Democrats and 14 GOP Senators in June 2013. According to Politico:
House members found themselves under siege from constituents and conservative groups. The fatal flaw: It provided a path to citizenship, albeit a winding one, for people in the country illegally. Many conservatives could support a path to legal status but not citizenship; Democrats, on the other hand, essentially took a citizenship-or-nothing approach. Boehner was boxed in: He wanted immigration reform, and personally didn’t mind citizenship—especially for minors brought to the U.S. unwittingly. But putting the bill on the floor meant it might pass into law with perhaps as few as 40 or 50 of his members voting yes.
But there is no evidence to support Politico’s claim that GOP legislators, immigration advocates, and voters were OK with legalization but hostile to citizenship.
Also, the quotes from Boehner in the article are too vague to show if he really thought a legalization-amnesty would have been acceptable to GOP voters.
The reality is that in 2013, pro-Americans immigration reformers repeatedly, exhaustively and loudly warned that the amnesty bill’s chief flaw was it repeated the mistake of the 1986 amnesty — it offered amnesty and citizenship before any safeguards and offsets were in place and approved by the Supreme Court.
The same warning process is underway in 2017, as House Speaker Paul Ryan gauges whether he wants to pass a no-strings ‘Dream Act’ legalization-or-citizenship amnesty for 690,000 to 3 million illegals.
Like in 2013, immigration reformers such as Mark Krikorian, the director of the Center for Immigration Studies, are repeatedly saying that the legalization-or-citizenship debate is less important than the scale, reliability, and effectiveness of compensating safeguards and offsets, such as equivalent reductions in the number of chain-migrants.
For example, in October, Breitbart News reported widespread opposition to a statement by a White House official offering a no-strings legalization-without-citizenship amnesty for young DACA illegals:
The suggestion by the White House official for a legalization-but-no-citizenship deal “is basically trying to trick the American people into thinking that you are not … setting it up for the full-scale amnesty later,” said Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA. Denying a path to citizenship would just “be kicking the [chain-migration] can down the road until Democrats get control of Congress again,” he said…
The only way to prevent a DACA deal from delivering another huge wave of migrants into the United States is a deal which curbs chain-migration for every new citizen, including the DACA illegals, fairly and equally, [CIS expert Jessica] Vaughan said.
A half-solution — such as special rules for the DACA illegals — can’t survive elections or courtrooms, Vaughan said. “I think that would be a political mistake to do it halfway [because] opens Republicans up to constant derision about Jim Crow status for people with DACA residency,” she said.
Second-class treatment for the amnestied DACA illegals “is not a good idea anyway if you are going to make them permanent residents of the country,” said Beck. “If you think amnesty is going to happen, it would have to be citizenship amnesty.”
The only way to solve the chain-migration problem, said Beck, is “you end chain migration for all immigrants.”
“We’ve had seven amnesties and every one has created chains of immigrants,” he said, adding ” we cannot do this again.”
In 2013 — and also in 2017 — Democrats and business groups aggressively blocked demands for safeguards and offsets, such as equivalent reductions in future migration, and the requirement for mandatory E-Verify.
In fact, the first version of the Gang of Eight bill actually wiped out the current voluntary E-Verify system used to exclude illegal immigrants from jobs. Similarly, the bill created a mechanism where universities were allowed to provide green cards to an unlimited number of foreign graduates, likely flooding Americans’ white-collar labor market with cheap foreign competition.
The 2013 bill generated fierce opposition because it grew clear that the backers wanted an amnesty without safeguards or offsets for Americans, not because it offered citizenship for illegals. Without safeguards and offsets, the business-backed bill would have imposed huge costs on Americans.
Shortly before the Senate approved the amnesty legislation in June 2013, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office sketched out the legislation’s everyman losers and upper-crust winners:
Average wages would be slightly lower than under current law through 2024, primarily because the amount of capital available to workers would not increase as rapidly as the number of workers and because the new workers would be less skilled and have lower wages, on average, than the labor force under current law … [and] the rate of return on capital would be higher under the legislation than under current law throughout the next two decades.
The report also noted that the bill would cut per-capita income in the United States;
Per capita GNP would be less than 1 percent lower than under current law through 2031 because the increase in the population would be greater, proportionately, than the increase in output; after 2031, however, the opposite would be true.
The 2013 report is titled “The Economic Impact of S. 744,” and it likely understated the impact of the legislation by limiting itself to the direct impact of the legislation. In all likelihood, the 2013 amnesty would have been followed by more amnesties, each of which would have flooded the labor market with more workers, so further boosting profits and income for employers investors and professionals.
If Politico’s report is correct, Boehner simply did not understand what was in the Senate’s amnesty legislation.
A misunderstanding is plausible because the GOP leadership has shown very little understanding of immigration politics — thus Donald Trump was elected in 2016 — and it shows far too much trust the in pollsters and strategies offered by the GOP’s business allies, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Also, Boehner blames President Barack Obama’ divisive, no-compromise ambitions for the failure of the amnesty bill, would have added an additional 30 million legal immigrants over the following ten years. Politico said:
Looking back, Boehner says not solving immigration is his second-biggest regret, and he blames Obama for “setting the field on fire.”
But Boehner’s reaction to Obama ‘s actions is puzzling because Obama has repeatedly explained that he supports cheap-labor migration because new waves of Latino immigrants will ensure progressive dominance.
“This huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefits to the economy as a whole… [but] it also threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans,” he wrote in his 2006 autobiography, “The Audacity of Hope.” Their economic pain was worthwhile, he wrote, because “in my mind, at least, the fates of black and brown were to be perpetually intertwined, the cornerstone of a coalition that could help America live up to its promise.”
In 2014, Obama declared that Americans have no right to resist unlimited immigration.
Politico’s author, however, seems to misunderstand the public’s economic and civic concerns. Instead, he smears Americans’ rational worries about mass migration as merely “nativist views.” He wrote:
the former speaker doesn’t mention the nativist voices in his own party that came to dominate the debate, foreshadowing the presidential campaign three years later. Ultimately, the speaker’s immigration quandary boiled down to a choice between protecting his right flank and doing what he thought was right for the country—and Boehner chose the former.
The Politico reporter’s view of normal Americans’ preferences may be the reason why the reporter did not quiz Boehner about whether he understood the public worries about the legislation’s huge economic and civic impacts.