Politics

Immigration reform: the escape hatch from ObamaCare

Immigration reform: the escape hatch from ObamaCare

One of the bluntly practical issues raised by “comprehensive immigration reform” skeptics is that amnesty for illegal aliens will drop millions of new workers into a system that is already groaning under endless high unemployment.  If Obama’s economy can’t produce enough jobs for the existing citizens, suddenly introducing a new population of job seekers isn’t going to help matters, particularly for unemployed people in the regions and demographics that will find themselves in direct competition with all those “New Americans.”

Of course, those workers are already physically present in the United States, or else we wouldn’t be having this discussion, but they’re current segregated into industries that can get away with hiring them under the table, for those fabled (and largely mythical) “jobs Americans just won’t do.”  This is a matter of understandable concern for illegal aliens and their advocates, because their shadow sector of the workforce is not known for providing decent wages and pleasant work environments.  Legalization will move them into direct competition with the rest of the unemployed, a concern that prompted Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) – the true master of “Marco Rubio’s immigration reform” – to absurdly promise that “a foreign worker will never be hired to undercut an American worker’s wage.”

If Schumer was actually serious about somehow detecting and prevent that, it would mean a surveillance state that makes Obama’s current Orwellian patchwork look like child’s play.  In fact, it would require more regulatory effort than actually doing the government’s damn job and securing the border.  Does Schumer think he’d be able to set up tribunals that review complaints from native-born Americans and legal immigrants who feel they lost jobs to the “New Americans?”  Is he planning to set up affirmative-action-style “disparate impact” boards that would force employers to hire no more than, say, six percent legalized aliens if the general population of their community is six percent legalized aliens?

Phillip Klein at the Washington Examiner makes a solid, devastatingly simple case that employers have a huge incentive to hire freshly-legalized aliens over full-boat American citizens: ObamaCare.  The worst legislation in modern history provides a very direct, almost irresistible reason to prefer workers who are only partway down the “pathway to citizenship.”

Under the existing Senate immigration bill, immigrants who have been in the United States illegally can obtain a provisional legal status after paying fines and meeting certain preconditions. But this population would have to wait at least 13 years to be able to obtain full citizenship, and it isn’t until then that they could qualify for government benefits such as Obamacare.

The problem arises when this rule interacts with another provision of Obamacare – the employer mandate. Starting in January, businesses with 50 or more employees who don’t offer workers health insurance that the federal government deems acceptable must pay a penalty if at least one of their workers obtains insurance on a new government-run exchange. The penalty is up to $3,000 per worker.

This means if the immigration bill becomes law, some employers could effectively face incentives of hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire newly legalized immigrants over American citizens, because the immigrant workers would not qualify for Obamacare benefits.

Klein notes that this incentive will be provided in the teeth of the great Obama unemployment story the media absolutely refuses to tell, even though the evidence is clear and plentiful: the transition of the American workforce to part-time status, driven by the heavy mandates ObamaCare drops on full-time positions.  Under George Bush, a deeply concerned media called them “burger-flipper jobs”; James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute describes the phenomenon as the birth of “Waiter and Waitress Nation.”

Even the relatively decent jobs reports of the Obama era have featured “job creation” that actually consists of replacing solid full-time career positions with part-time work.  Full-time jobs are lost; part-time jobs are created; the media portrays this as “job growth.”  It’s not really accurate to call the Obama jobs market “stagnant.”  It’s getting worse even when it looks like it might be getting slightly better.

What happens when we suddenly add millions of job seekers who are, according to recent versions of “comprehensive immigration reform,” 10 to 13 years away from falling under those ObamaCare mandates?  Business owners would be fools not to prefer them over full citizens.

Klein notes there is “no easy fix” for the problem, since legislators would have to either strip the employer mandates out of ObamaCare (which would make the President’s boondoggle even more absurd than it already is) or stuff legalized aliens into ObamaCare immediately (a deal-breaker for Republicans that would also detonate a deficit-spending H-bomb.)  Klein asked Rubio’s staff about it several months ago, but got no answer beyond the reasonable but irrelevant observation that ObamaCare sucks.  None of the 200+ amendments to immigration reform proposed thus far has addressed the problem.  It’s difficult to see how an amendment to the immigration bill possibly could.

This issue highlights the fundamental incompatibility of open borders and socialism.  Socialism is a complex series of inputs and outputs, which illegal immigration disrupts.  Group A pays this much, so that Group B can be given these benefits… what happens when Group X is abruptly introduced to the equation?  Intellectually serious advocates of amnesty and open borders should be calling for the welfare state to be dismantled, not designing flimsy barriers that will supposedly keep legalized aliens out of it.  Socialism requires walls, to keep people both in and out, but free markets can have turnstiles.

Of course, as long as power accumulates to the State, socialists don’t really care about the practical failure of their programs, so this is a concern only to outside skeptics who enjoy needling liberals by taking their ideas more seriously than they do.  Problems with State power are merely opportunities to propose “solutions” that will grant the State even more power.  If that wasn’t painfully obvious during the passage of ObamaCare, it should be abundantly clear to anyone following the immigration debate.

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