Immigration Reform Advocates Criticize White House Proposal

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

( - Advocates for tougher enforcement of U.S. Immigration laws say the White House has put "a lump of coal in the stockings of American workers" with a Christmas Eve proposal to allow more foreign workers to enter the country and amnesty for some workers who have already entered illegally.

Activists working with the administration told the Washington Post Wednesday that the president is working on a strategy that would let foreign citizens enter the U.S. legally, with few restrictions, if they have a job waiting for them. The newspaper's sources said the White House also wants to find some way to grant amnesty to at least some of the nine to 11 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S.

Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, scoffed at the proposal.

"This Christmas Eve announcement amounts to a lump of coal in the stockings of American workers," Stein said, "while illegal aliens and their employers find expensive gifts, tied up with fancy ribbons and bows, waiting for them in the new year."

The Bush proposal would reportedly allow employers to advertise jobs on a taxpayer sponsored website. The jobs would first be made available to U.S. citizens but, if there were no takers, could then be opened up to citizens of other countries. The plan would also allow many, if not most, of the nine to 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S. to be "reclassified" as "guest workers."

"The White House diligently avoided using the 'A' word in its announcement," Stein said. "But no matter how much Karl Rove wishes to torture the English language, a program that rewards millions upon millions of people who have cheated to get into this country, who have cheated by working off-the-books and avoided paying taxes, and who have cheated by using billions of dollars in public services ... is still an amnesty."

Bush tried to avert such criticism at a Dec. 16 press conference in which he teased the proposal.

"We need to have an immigration policy that helps match any willing employer with any willing employee," Bush said, quickly adding, "This administration is firmly against blanket amnesty."

The leak of Bush's plan to reporters came two weeks after Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said current immigration law, which mandates that illegal aliens return to their home countries to apply for legal status in the U.S. is "not workable."

"The bottom line is, as a country we have to come to grips with the presence of 8 to 12 million illegals, afford them some kind of legal status some way," Ridge told those attending a town hall meeting in Miami Dec. 10. "But also as a country [we have to] decide what our immigration policy is and then enforce it."

Phil Kent, executive director of the American Immigration Control Foundation, said the former Pennsylvania governor should resign his position.

"Ridge is clearly incapable of overseeing homeland security," Kent said. "Aside from dynamiting the rule of law by rewarding lawbreakers, how would security interests be served by simply granting legal status to foreigners whose identities and criminal histories can't be verified?

"Besides, this would only serve as a magnet for more illegal immigration," Kent predicted, "as the foolish congressional amnesties of 1986 and 1990 underscore."

Stein warned that the Bush proposal would have a serious economic impact on American citizens and immigrants who have entered the country and obtained permission to work legally.

"In addition to legalizing millions of illegal aliens and countless additional family members, the 'guest worker' provision of this proposal will sound the death knell of the American middle class," Stein predicted. "Employers will never again have to compete for workers by offering better pay or benefits. They will simply have to look across the border, or across the ocean to find an unlimited supply of workers willing to accept whatever they are willing to pay.

"Upward mobility, for most American workers, will become something they study about in history class," he concluded.

Stein said the White House wants to "reward illegal immigrants and punish American workers," when it should be backing Republican proposals to "protect American workers and send a signal to illegal aliens and their employers that U.S. immigration laws have some meaning.

"There are several critical pieces of legislation that would enhance our immigration enforcement capability, improve our antiquated documentation system, and protect American workers, all introduced by congressional Republicans that the Administration should be championing instead of capitulating to the illegal immigration lobby," Stein said.

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