Let’s start with immigration.
Remember the “path to citizenship” and “earned legalization” promises? — that is, the claim that a mass legalization program would not be “amnesty” because there would be hoops to jump through rather than an automatic process and because the prospective new citizens would have to prove their worthiness?
Turns out, the requirements for future residents will be few in the new Biden proposal. According to the Biden website, the only requirement for “undocumented individuals” to apply for temporary legal status is to have been present in the United States before January 1, 2021 (or to have one’s claim be accepted — one wonders what standards of proof there will be for newly-arrived individuals working under the table) or to have been deported during Trump’s presidency after having lived here for three years. After five years, such individuals can apply for green cards if they “pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes” which the document calls “an earned roadmap to citizenship” but — I’m sorry, in what world does “passing a background check” (that is, not committing crimes severe enough to be deemed disqualifying) and “paying taxes” (which will, generally speaking, for the income levels of poor immigrants, really mean receiving tax refunds from the EITC and child tax credits, or cash back from withholding because they hadn’t filed taxes in the past, or be irrelevant if they’d been working under the table and claim to have had no income) constitute “earning” anything? In any case, as they will have already been given temporary status and, since Biden has repeatedly pledged not to deport anyone, nor to take away anyone’s temporary status, one presumes individuals who wouldn’t pass the background check or would have a real tax liability simply wouldn’t bother with next steps, nor would they need to. In any event, the last step to “earning” citizenship would be the standard requirements for citizenship, but, unlike the usual requirement of five years’ residence as a permanent resident, these newly legalized people would need only three years of green-card status.
At least versions of the “DREAMERS” proposals required a GED.
What else does his legislative proposal include? It eliminate the “3 and 10-year bars” which prevent people who have been deported once already from seeking legal status after they re-enter. It allows immigrants who are being sponsored by their family members (that is, adult siblings and extended family) to come immediately rather than waiting on a wait list (again, this is claimed to be “temporary” but that’s meaningless). It “clears employment-based visa backlogs” — meaning that anyone who wants a foreign worker can get one. It “improves access to green cards for workers in lower-wage sectors” (what this means is unclear), gives H-1B workers’ dependents work authorization and seemingly gives their children permanent residence (prevents them from “aging out”). It “incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition to American workers” — which makes no sense in light of prior statements that visa backlogs would be cleared.
As to border enforcement, it is solely concerned with preventing narcotics/contraband, not the illegal crossing of persons; with respect to the latter, its concern is solely with their welfare through additional aid beacons.
And what about enforcement? ” The bill requires that DHS and the Department of Labor establish a commission involving labor, employer, and civil rights organizations to make recommendations for improving the employment verification process.” This does not suggest an intent to increase the degree to which “employment verification” prevents illegal immigrants from presenting false or stolen identification in order to work. Involving “labor, employer, and civil rights organizations” suggests instead that “improvement” is intended to mean “less effective,” not more, based on complaints that there are occasional issues of hiring being delayed due to mix-ups.
Now, maybe this is Biden’s opening bid, and his strategy is simply to stake out these demands and then make concessions to allow for greater enforcement. But as a statement of principles, this bodes ill. No enforcement along the border, no enforcement at the point of employment, no enforcement with respect to crimes of identity theft: all of this promotes exactly what is already the perception of illegal immigrants anyway, “it’s inconvenient to work under the table or with false IDs but there’s nothing actually wrong with it.” And if someone here on January 1st, 2021 gets legalization, what about the next generation, after their sad stories are in the news, when they aren’t eligible for Social Security benefits or food stamps, or the “DREAMERs” who arrived as children on January 2nd, 2021?
And in the same way as Bush’s plan in 2006 claimed to “solve” illegal immigration by simply giving visas to anyone who wanted one (the “Blue Card” in which employers could pay minimum wage to any jobseeker in the world, regardless of whether the market wage for that job was higher), so that enforcement would be unnecessary, Biden’s plan claims to solve illegal immigration by reducing poverty in Central America. But it’s preposterous to believe that Biden can craft a plan which will reduce poverty there so much that immigrants will stop coming to the United States.
“Biden’s a moderate,” they said.
“Biden will bring about unity and healing,” they said.
Is that a joke? Or is this the same old game of “unity means you agree with what I say”?
(See also: “Biden plans early legislation to offer legal status to 11 million immigrants without it,” at the LA Times, and “Biden immigration plan opposed by GOP, conservative groups” at the Associated Press.)
But that’s not all!
Biden has proposed $1.9 trillion in so-called “Covid relief” spending the majority of which has nothing to do with Covid at all — and this as just a starting point, with promises to propose even more spending next month.
He has plans for a $15 minimum wage.
He will go after the Little Sisters of the Poor to compel them to fund contraceptives for employees despite the Supreme Court losses of the Obama administration, restore funding to Planned Parenthood, and advocate for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and the implementation of government funding of abortion in Medicaid, Obamacare, and elsewhere, all while claiming the mantle of “devout Catholic.”
And there’ll be lots more in the weeks and months to come.
But honestly, it’s the immigration bill that really irritates me at the moment, because it so clearly sets the tone. This is the immigration plan of someone who simply doesn’t see anything wrong with someone entering the country illegally and working with a false or stolen ID or under the table. Concerns that wages will be driven down are to be dealt with by promoting unionization and boosting the minimum wage. Concerns about higher federal spending are irrelevant because of the new mantra that the government can spend near-unlimited sums of money. Concerns about the difficulties of integrating into the fabric of American society a large swathe of new arrivals are rejected as irrelevant — it’s unjust to even expect this.
And if Biden’s proposals all follow this tone, we’re in for a very long four years.