We’re hearing that it may be another long hot summer of racial animosity and division courtesy of the “Three Amigos” on immigration: Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and Steve King (R-IA). They’re pushing a new anti-immigrant bill that will spark outrage from organized labor, Latinos, civil rights organizations and mainstream economists. And they say they’re advancing the bill, in part, out of their deep concern for unemployed African Americans. Yawn.
See here for more details on the bill but the thumbnail version is this: they want to make a program called “E-Verify” mandatory – requiring every worker in the country to get cleared by a national database after they are hired in order to keep their job. Where it’s been used so far, it has a failure rate of over 50 percent. And like most wedge issues driven by racial animosity, its impact on the economy and all workers would be catastrophic. The rap is that we need to kick immigrants out of their jobs and together, with police crackdowns, make their lives so miserable that 12 million people and their families pick up and leave—and that the impact on Americans who lose their jobs or have to go down to the social security office to correct their records is just an unfortunate consequence — a minor inconvenience. Yeah, right.
While Smith, Gallegly and King claim to have suddenly found religion on protecting workers, organized labor isn’t having it. Today’s National Journal reports on labor’s unified opposition to mandatory E-Verify:
With a little help from their friends in the immigrant advocacy and civil rights communities, labor now has ample opportunity to explain why Smith’s approach—enforcement without a release valve for undocumented workers and the employers who need them—is a bad idea. “There is a serious concern about moving forward with one piece without the others. It’s really important that they fit together. We’re not seeing anything like that” from Republicans, said AFL-CIO Associate General Counsel Ana Avendaño. “There is universal agreement within the labor movement that E-Verify has to be fixed.”
Like labor, most level headed economist think the bill will only force workers and bad employers further underground, lower the floor on the labor market and be a disaster for legal workers and honest employers trying to navigate an error-ridden government program.
As a preview of what we can expect to see, Elton Gallegly, chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, has already held hearings that tried to pit Latinos against African Americans. (His hometown paper, the Ventura County Star, reported on March 1, 2011 “Immigration hearing turns into racial battle.”) He even had a hearing designed to create tension between native-born citizens and naturalized citizens, which Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) blasted as “scapegoating on steroids.” At the hearing, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) said:
I am concerned by the majority’s attempt to manufacture tension between African-Americans and immigrant communities. It seems as though they would like for our communities to think about immigration in terms of ‘us versus them,’ and I reject that notion.
So get ready for a handful of black and brown apologists for the far right to testify before Congress and show up on TV as experts; and for Reps. Alan West, Tim Scott and the new Latino conservative Members of Congress to see this as their day in the sun.
The bill might very well be political suicide for Republicans, but they don’t seem to mind that.
“Lamar Smith will turn into the best Latino organizer that we have. If that’s what he wants, God bless him. It’s not helping his party,” Medina said. “Anytime something like that comes forward and they use it as an attack weapon… it helps to make the case to Latinos and immigrants on why they need to become citizens, why they need to vote, and why they need candidates on their side.”
Medina echoed warnings from many Hispanic activists (and even the likes of conservative luminaries like Karl Rove and Grover Norquist at one time) that Republicans would do best to pay attention to Latinos. “Between today and November 2012, there will be a million more Latino kids who will turn 18, all of them U.S. citizens. All of those kids are growing up with all of these attacks on their families, all being done by Republicans in a very public way. They’re not going to forget,” he said.
I’d put good money on the bill passing in the Republican controlled House and some Senate Democrats taking too long to decide against jumping on the race bait bandwagon, as we all hold out hope that a level-headed President will stand up and put his foot down. Get ready — it’s going to be a doozy.