The “dog that didn’t bark” is a familiar metaphor in detective stories, and it comes to mind in watching the amnesty debate as well. Don’t you think it odd that our governors and state lawmakers have been silent in the current debate over new amnesty legislation?
And anyone who thinks only the four southwest border states are affected by illegal immigration is blind. Every state with an international airport has hundreds of thousands if not millions of tourists, business travelers, guest workers and foreign students arriving each year on temporary visas. At least 40 percent of the illegal aliens arrived on a valid visa and then did not leave when it expired.
Obviously, state governments and state taxpayers have a huge stake in the debate over amnesty. So, the silence of state leaders in the amnesty debate is as strange as it is inexcusable.
State governments are always “at the table” lobbying on every other piece of federal legislation affecting state budgets, from education and the environment to transportation and health care. Why not immigration reform? Why are states AWOL in the amnesty debate?
There is no denying that state governments and state and local taxpayers will be seriously impacted if Congress enacts another amnesty for 10 to 30 million illegal aliens. So, why is that dog not barking?
Yes, it is true that immigration law is a federal matter, as we have been reminded in recent Supreme Court decisions. Even state action to help enforce federal immigration law is constrained by the doctrine of federal preemption. For example, courts have held that states cannot add to the federally prescribed fines and penalties for employers who hire illegal workers. When the federal government slacks off in enforcement, states have few options.
But logically, shouldn’t that lead states to demand a role in shaping the federal immigration laws they will be stuck with?
It appears that states have been told to sit down and shut up, and by all the evidence, they are happy to do so.
This past week the Congressional Budget Office issued a report on the estimated fiscal impact of the Senate amnesty bill, S.744, over the next 10 years. The CBO estimates that if enacted, the changes in immigration law would lead to a small increase in Gross Domestic Product and a small decrease in the budget deficit due to rising income tax revenue. The CBO also said unemployment would increase and wages for middle class Americans would fall. And, oh, by the way, illegal immigration would continue at 75 percent of its current level.
And what did the CBO report say about the impact of amnesty on state budgets over the next decade? Nothing. The CBO report said the impact of amnesty for 10 million illegal aliens and a net increase in total immigration of up to 44 million by the year 2023 “cannot be quantified.”
Thus, by CBO’s silence, our federal lawmakers have been given no guidance on the impact of adding up to 44 million new residents to state populations. The CBO can find no quantifiable impact on our public schools, law enforcement, public transportation, parks and recreation, or on state Medicaid outlays, which are already predicted to balloon out of control after 2016 because of the expansion in eligibility mandated by Obamacare.
So, in response to this CBO silence, do our state governors have an opinion on this likely impact? Evidently not.
The impact of amnesty on the states will be huge. If even the CBO predicts amnesty will increase the unemployment rate, you would think that states with high, persistent unemployment would object to adding to their burdens. If millions of new green-card immigrants are going to be added to state Medicaid rolls, why aren’t states waving a huge “Halt!” sign in front of the Capitol?
The reason for the silence is not the lack of a vital stake in the outcome of the amnesty debates. The reason for states going AWOL on the amnesty debate is the lack of political backbone among state leaders, Democrat and Republican alike.
Should we be surprised? It’s always easier to remain silent than risk offending powerful interest groups by asking embarrassing questions. Still, it is disappointing that even the few Republican governors with a reputation as “fiscal hawks” are sleeping through the amnesty debate. In the amnesty debate, citizens will look in vain for profiles in courage among the nation’s governors.