Earlier this month, freshman Representative Maria Elvira Salazar talked immigration and amnesty with Fox Business Network’s Larry Kudlow, the former head of Donald Trump’s National Economic Council. The interview began with a recent exchange Rep. Salazar had with former Trump senior adviser, Stephen Miller. During the remainder of the conversation, Ms. Salazar – a Republican representing Florida’s 27th (Miami area) District – attempted to sell mass amnesty to Fox viewers as Mr. Kudlow seemed to nod in agreement.
Her talking points may not be original, but they certainly represent everything that’s wrong with the pro-amnesty, soft-on-illegal-migration wing of the GOP. Here are several of her main points (in bold), along with responses.
To quote Politico, “ʻI told him [Stephen Miller] that the GOP needs to attract the browns,’ said Salazar, a Cuban American.”
Here Salazar sadly racializes what is not a question of race, but of law and sovereignty. She is also confusingly conflating Hispanics, immigrants, and illegal aliens. What is more, the Florida Republican is essentially recycling the pro-amnesty GOP’s mantra that the best way for the Republicans to win over Latino voters is to tolerate illegal migration and promote amnesty. The reality, however, is that the Trump-era GOP – with its pro-border-security, anti-illegal-migration message – actually improved its standing with Hispanic voters (see here and here).
She also told Politico: “We, for the last 30 years since Ronald Reagan, have not sent the right message to the browns. Reagan was the last guy who gave a path to citizenship to 3 million people … 35 years ago. It’s time for us to do the same thing that Reagan did.”
What this statement ignores is the fact that the 1986 amnesty was a counter-productive failure and that it came with a promise that it would never be repeated. The promises of enforcement did not materialize, while the number of illegal aliens in the United States increased almost fivefold, from 3 million to an estimated 14.5 million now (of course, Salazar repeatedly cited the 11 million figure, which is undoubtedly an under-estimate). Although the congresswoman pays lip service to border security, we have already been down this path before, and it clearly didn’t work.
When speaking of illegal aliens, Salazar told Kudlow: “probably most of them, 80 percent of them (…) have been here for more than five years, they have American children, they have not committed a crime, they pay taxes, and they’re doing jobs that other Americans don’t want to do.”
The Florida politician is ignoring the fact that any foreign national in the U.S. illegally has by definition broken our immigration laws, and this is not subject to any statute of limitations. In other words, living here illegally for a long period of time does not diminish or change the reality that one is residing in our country unlawfully. Additionally, many, if not most people working illegally are engaging in identity fraud or identity theft, both of which are federal crimes.
While it is true that illegal aliens pay some taxes, FAIR has shown the burden of the unlawfully-present population to American taxpayers – $133.7 billion – far outweighs any fiscal contributions illegal aliens make.
Moreover, the truth is that Americans will do any job at market-level wages and in decent working conditions. In fact, the Center for Immigration Studies has shown that of 474 separate occupations defined by the Department of Commerce, none are illegal-alien-majority.
When Larry Kudlow expressed skepticism towards family-based chain migration, arguing that immigration should be merit-based, Rep. Salazar responded that: “merit-based is what we need to do, but remember that not everybody that is a doctor or an engineer is needed in the marketplace. You also need people picking up jalapeno peppers, you need people picking up tomatoes in homestead[s]in my area, you also need people that that are going to be serving the in the hospitality industry. It’s merit-based.”
This is a prime example of semantic manipulation, for Ms. Salazar has essentially collapsed any difference between high-skilled, high-wage occupations (doctors, engineers) and low-skilled, low-wage jobs (farmworkers, cleaners), implying that both are equally based on “merit.” And many farmers still “need” foreign laborers to manually pick crops simply because the steady supply of cheap illegal alien labor has disincentivized them from mechanizing. In addition, she has not considered the likely effects of an amnesty on the farmworkers, who would either move into somewhat better-paying jobs in the legal economy (thereby competing with low-income Americans), go on welfare, or both.
Perhaps the largest elephant in the room during the Kudlow-Salazar exchange was the matter of how much mass amnesty would cost. Ms. Salazar makes it sound like granting “legality” to millions of illegal aliens would simply be a matter of compassion while also benefiting the economy. But in the real world, it would lead to more taxes and debt. According to the Heritage Foundation, a mass amnesty would cost $3.6 trillion over a 75-year period. Thus, amnesty will be far from a “free lunch.”