Monday, April 10, 2006

Immigration Rallies

The US has seen the largest rallies in its history since the Vietnam war, spearheaded by pro-immigrant groups, churches, unions and small businesses. Several small business leaders pointed out on news shows that they would go out of business without the labor these immigrants bring. One of them pointed out that for 8 of the 16 years of his firm, they used exclusively US citizens for labor, but reliable help was hard to find. Migrant workers work hard and prevent wage inflation, and reduce costs for all of us.

Much has been made by so-called conservatives about the fact that immigrants cost the country more than they benefit the economy. (I used the phrase "so-called" because a true conservative, in my opinion, is one who understands basic laws of supply and demand) Well, CBS News tonight had a few numbers and while they didn't intend to put them side-by-side, I made the connection! Illegal immigrants pay $10 billion in taxes currently, and if all were under the tax net, an additional $15 billion would be forthcoming. Later in the story, a number on how much they cost the exchequer - $2.2 billion in health spending. That means even the current tax revenues from illegal immigrants probably covers their healthcare costs. A guest worker program could end up being a tax bonanza for Uncle Sam, especially since non-citizens don't get the benefits from programs such as Social Security, even though they pay these taxes.

And while a small section of xenophobic Republicans have proved a stumbling block, the real shocker for immigrant groups must have been that in the end, we don't have a practical bill because of the Democrats. Here's the left-leaning Washington Post:
Democrats - whether their motive was partisan advantage or legitimate fear of a bad bill emerging from conference with the House - are the ones who refused, in the end, to proceed with debate on amendments, which is, after all, how legislation gets made. The unfortunate result is that the momentum toward balanced reform may be lost. ‘The Democratic leadership played politics with the prospect of 10 million immigrants getting on a path to citizenship,’ said Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigration group. ‘It seems that Democratic leaders wanted an issue, not a bill.’”

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