By Martin Bosworth
And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what happened. As this AP article points out, the failure of the immigration bill was due to massive divisions among all the constituencies it tried to please. The only people that really benefited from this bill would have been the Bush regime, which would have claimed a political victory in the face of near-constant reminders of their incompetence. Everyone else would have gotten the shiv to one degree or another. Let’s take a closer look:
The bill was designed specifically to favor big business, particularly retail and service companies, thanks to its reformulation of calculating who gets a visa and who does not. Under the proposed new system, unskilled service workers from Mexico would stand as good a chance of getting permanent residency as highly-skilled programmers from India, and sometimes even more so. This had tech giants like Google seeing red–Google has publicly called to increase the H1-B visa cap in order to import in more foreign talent to work at Google (most likely for lower wages than their American counterparts would).
American tech workers, naturally, saw this for what it was–an attempt to keep wages low–and responded accordingly, which gave folks like Byron Dorgan and Jeff Bingaman the incentive they needed to push to get the number of guest workers drastically reduced, and to eventually sunset the program after five years. This, of course, made the Chamber of Commerce apoplectic–“You mean we can’t have a small army of workers who can’t vote, can’t strike, can’t ask for better pay, and have to do what we tell them to do?”
Of course, that wasn’t all that pissed big business off. One part of the bill would have mandated that employers do much more in the way of verifying their workers are legal, a costly and onerous proposition under the best of circumstances. And I’ve already written about what a tremendous threat the new employment database would be to data security and privacy, and how the bill fails to address the connection between illegal immigration and identity theft.
This bill had something to piss off everyone. The Republican base loathed it for its granting of semi-legal status to illegal aliens. Labor hated it because of the creation of a permanent underclass of “guest workers” that would be able to drain jobs and bargaining power from American workers. Techies hated it for similar reasons. The Dems hated it because of the xenophobic emphasis on border security and law enforcement, and because the prohibitive fees and “return” requirements for many workers would have made it next to impossible for any of the guest workers to become citizens. And business ended up hating it because they couldn’t get the results they wanted.
I previously said of this bill that “Compromise is a solution everyone hates.” In this case, not only did everyone hate it, but the bill solved nothing and would have made a sensitive and thorny issue much, much worse. Kudos to everyone who did their part to torpedo this lumbering patchwork Frankenstein’s monster, and shame on both George Bush and Harry Reid for wasting the country’s time with this nonsense.