Would the Harry Reid of 1993 have embraced Arizona's SB 1070?
When asked about figures released by the Pew Hispanic Center that demonstrated 14% of the nation’s construction workers are illegal aliens, Harry Reid responded, “That may be some place, but it’s not here in Nevada.” Reid is right. The number is much higher in Nevada. According to the same report, Nevada has the highest level of illegal aliens in the workforce at 12.2%—2.3% higher than the next highest state.
When asked to justify why he blocked Senator Jeff Session’s amendment to require government contracted construction workers to use E-verify to prevent the hiring of illegal aliens with taxpayer money, he replied: “That’s the reason we need to do comprehensive immigration reform. We cannot do it piecemeal.”
In other words: he refuses to enforce our immigration laws unless we pass amnesty.
Earlier in the year, Reid wrote a detailed outline with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) of what they wanted “comprehensive immigration reform” to look like.
It isn’t pretty. The bill will gut enforcement, voiding all state and local laws such as the one just passed in Arizona. It will also greatly increase legal immigration levels—adding at least 550,000 permanent work visas and 3.4 million permanent family visas.
It will grant amnesty to every single illegal alien present in this country the day it is passed. Besides rewarding the lawbreakers who are already here, this will encourage additional illegal immigration as the bill is debated. The bill even allows illegal aliens with multiple criminal convictions to receive amnesty.
Needless to say, this is not the type of immigration reform that Americans want.
Harry Reid did not always support amnesty. In 1993, he introduced the Immigration Stabilization Act, and he reintroduced it the following year.
Upon introducing the bill, Reid said:
Our borders have overflowed with illegal immigrants placing tremendous burdens on our criminal justice system, schools and social programs… Our federal wallet is stretched to the limit by illegal aliens getting welfare, food stamps, medical care and other benefits often without paying any taxes.
While “comprehensive immigration reform” is now used as a euphemism for amnesty, Reid’s office called the bill “the first and only comprehensive immigration reform bill in Congress.”
And comprehensive it was.
Reid’s bill would have ended giving birthright citizenship to the children of illegal aliens, increased border security, created new sanctions against illegal aliens and their employers, and barred illegal aliens from receiving government benefits. Additionally, the bill reduced legal immigrant admissions by 500,000 people a year. It achieved this by eliminating the visa lottery, limiting work visas to truly skilled immigrants with advanced degrees and extraordinary abilities, and limiting family reunification to children and spouses.
What has changed since Reid introduced the bill? In 1994, there were approximately 3 million illegal aliens living in the United States. Today there are 11 million. In 1994, we accepted 800,000 legal immigrants each year. Today, we accept 1.1 million. In 1994, unemployment was at 6.6%. Today it is officially at 9.5%, and these numbers do not include the temporary census workers who will soon be out of a job. The Census Bureau reports that one out of every six workers in America is foreign born, with eight million illegal immigrants in the workforce.
Things are even worse in Nevada. In addition to having the highest number of illegal aliens in the workforce, it also has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 14%.
One thing that has certainly changed since 1994 is Harry Reid. As Senate Democratic Leader, he now sees illegal aliens and foreign workers as future Democratic voters and believes that pandering to Hispanics will help him win votes. The Arizona Republic recently ran a piece entitled “Harry Reid's dislike of Arizona law may aid re-election.”
Fortunately for Nevadans and Americans, Reid’s repositioning on immigration will most likely backfire. Hispanics only make up 12% of the electorate, and many are patriotic citizens who support Arizona’s law. As a whole, 57% of Nevada voters support Arizona’s law and 63% oppose the Obama administration’s lawsuit to prevent it.
While illegal immigration has become a hot button political issue, no politician of either party has introduced legislation for across the board cuts on legal immigration since I introduced the Mass Immigration Reduction Act of 2004.
The fact that this is not getting any attention is outrageous. Despite skyrocketing unemployment, we actually increased the number of foreign workers we accepted into the country in 2009, with over 1.1 million permanent green cards issued, in addition to over 880,000 visas to temporary foreign workers.
With our immigration and economic problems out of control and politicians refusal to fully address the issue, we need the Harry Reid of 1993 and 1994 more than ever.
Former Congressman Tom Tancredo served Colorado’s 6th Congressional District from 1999 through 2009 where he founded and chaired the bipartisan, 100+ member Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus. He currently serves as Chairman of the Rocky Mountain Foundation and Team America PAC.