The so-called Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which passed the Democrat-controlled House last week, reveals the current state of Amnesty politics. Deceptively promoted as a way to help the agricultural industry, the bill’s real purpose is to legalize millions of illegal-alien farm laborers i.e. it’s an Amnesty. It shows that Democrats will support any loosening of immigration laws, even if it turns illegal aliens into indentured servants. But only 34 out of 197 Republicans backed it, which (while disgraceful) shows the GOP no longer dares support an outright Amnesty. This polarization decreases the chances of Big Agriculture’s Amnesty—and serves to protect American workers.
The bill should horrify immigration patriots. It offers legal status to any illegal who worked in agriculture in the last two years. Those illegal aliens would receive a “Certified Agricultural Worker” visa and be barred from applying for a green card for at least four years. It expands the H-2A program by an additional 20,000 visas to cover other industries, including dairy and meat-packing. The H-2A supposedly covers temporary agricultural workers, but the new bill expands it past its intended area. It also allots 40,000 green cards per year for H-2A visa holders and gives legal status to many illegal aliens convicted of driving under the influence and Social Security fraud [House passes farm bill that critics say grants ‘large-scale Amnesty’ to illegal immigrants, by Adam Shaw, Fox News, December 11, 2019].
Mandatory e-Verify is the bill’s only highlight. But it would be imposed only after the Amnesty is fully implemented.
The good news: Republican and conservative opposition is significant enough to likely mean it’s doomed.
The Amnesty was sponsored by 25 Republicans, including California Rep. Devin Nunes and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, whose performances during the impeachment hearing made them heroes to President Trump and conservatives. But both serve Big Agriculture’s interests. Stefanik has long tried to give Big Ag more cheap foreign labor due to the industry’s power in her district. Nunes’s family owns an Iowa farm in an area that mostly employs illegal aliens. If the bill becomes law, Nunes could well employ indentured servants [Devin Nunes’s Family Farm Is Hiding a Politically Explosive Secret, by Ryan Lizza, Esquire, September 30, 2018].
But only 32 Republicans joined the pair on the final vote. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (although from ag-friendly Bakersfield CA), Minority Whip Steve Scalise, and House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney voted against the bill, signaling the GOP leadership’s opposition. And another significant Trump impeachment defender, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, criticized the bill as “a path to citizenship for an unknown number of illegal immigrants who do some work in agriculture, along with their families.” [Collins statement on H.R. 5038, December 11, 2019]
The Heritage Foundation also attacked the bill because it “threatens the legal immigration system’s legitimacy and incentivizes aliens and farmers to ignore the legal immigration system in the future if it best serves their needs” [Congress Should Reject Amnesty for Illegal Agricultural Workers, by Daren Bakst, December 10, 2019].
That wall of opposition suggests the bill will die upon arrival in the Senate. President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are not keen on going against their party’s majority. And if Fox News’s primetime lineup is hostile, Trump just might denounce it outright. Tucker Carlson segments regularly inspire presidential tweets. Negative Carlson coverage could do the same for Big Ag’s Amnesty.
Given the recent past, this GOP opposition is a very positive development. In 2013, nearly one-third of Republican senators voted for the Gang of Eight Amnesty. But last week, only 17 percent of Republicans voted for a much-more limited Amnesty that benefitted corporate interests. It’s not hard to imagine that a majority of pre-Trump Republicans would have voted for the indentured-servant plan. But Trump’s victory in 2016, after hotly opposing Amnesty and illegal immigration, has changed the party. Very few Republicans openly champion “comprehensive immigration reform” anymore, and the White House has expressed zero interest in the idea. The only Amnesty that Republicans discuss now is a permanent legalization for illegal aliens who came to the U.S. as minors. That’s not ideal, but it’s better than an Amnesty for all.
In contrast, Democrats are now even more extreme on immigration than they were pre-Trump.
Despite progressive concerns that the Gang of Eight’s guest-worker provisions would shaft American workers, every Democrat voted for it [Gang of 8 defends guest worker plan, by Seung Min Kim, Politico, May 13, 2013]. A few Leftists senators, such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, had voted against the 2007 Amnesty because it hurt American workers.
But only three Democrats voted against the latest Amnesty forcing American workers to compete against indentured servants. Three out of the four “Squad” members voted for it, while one—Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib—voted present. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow progressives claim to represent workers’ interests, yet they sided with big corporations against American workers.
Somali Congresswoman Ilhan Omar supported this bill because it legalized illegal aliens, whom she equates with American workers i.e. America has no legitimate existence as a nation. “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a major step forward for our immigration system and our workers,” she said. “This bill provides a pathway for qualified undocumented farmworkers and their families to legalize their status, a major victory.”
In other words, the Democratic Party’s commitment to identity politics and the demographic and political transformation of America by importing millions of new voters outweighs any concern for actual workers. Democrats don’t care that the Big Ag Amnesty hurts the job prospects of America’s working class, including immigrants, or the Historic American Nation, because they believe the newcomers will more be reliable Democrats than the natives.
This new dogma contrasts with the past views of the Squad’s hero, Bernie Sanders. For many years, Sanders opposed Amnesty on pro-worker grounds. “I don't know why we need millions of people to be coming into this country as guest workers who will work for lower wages than American workers and drive wages down even lower than they are now,” he told Lou Dobbs in 2007 [What Bernie Sanders told Lou Dobbs in 2007 about why he opposed the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill, by Matthew Yglesias, Vox.com, February 12, 2016].
Sanders did vote for the Gang of Eight Amnesty in 2013, but two years later he was still insisting Open Borders were a Koch Brothers plan to undermine American workers.
Sadly, Sanders now sounds like the Squad on immigration and supports more immigration and open borders. He will likely support the Big Ag Amnesty too, even though he made an effective argument against such ideas in 2007.
This extremism dooms any chance of bipartisan support for a “comprehensive” Amnesty. Democrats no longer even pretend to care about border security. Many Democratic leaders want to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, tear down what little we have of a border wall, and turn America into one big Sanctuary Society. They will concede nothing to Republicans on immigration, as we’ve seen time and again during the Trump era.
But Republicans know their base is implacably hostile to Amnesty. Many Republican lawmakers would love to reward their donors and corporate pals with cheap labor, but they know their voters will make them pay. The party realizes Trump won on opposition to illegal immigration and have adjusted accordingly, even if they still don’t get the message on legal immigration. No Republican can offer what Democrats want and survive politically. The GOP base wants a wall and aggressive immigration enforcement—two things Democrats will never support.
The GOP’s slow move toward immigration patriotism aligns them with average Americans. A 2018 Harvard-Harris poll found that 81 percent support reducing immigration. The vast majority of Americans want increased border security, including 56 percent of Hillary Clinton voters. Democrats on the opposite end of both issues give Republicans a powerful weapon for 2020.[Fox News Poll, June 16, 2019]
So, if Trump and the Republicans are smart, they’ll hang the Big Ag Amnesty around Democrats’ necks. A pro-worker party can’t defend bringing back indentured servitude. And Trump’s opposition would tell Big Ag’s Republican lackeys to forget their corporate donors and remember Middle America. Supporting this bill hurts the party—especially when the Amnesty’s backers argue that Americans are lazy, as Congressman Doug LaMalfa, a farmer from California farm district, did, below:
America Last Republican Congressman Doug LaMalfa (California) supporting Amnesty Bill HR 5038 and insulting the American people saying that they would rather play Xbox than go outside and work. pic.twitter.com/fiae72rICm— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) December 11, 2019
Trump must ensure that his Congressional party gets that memo and kills this bill in the Senate. The chances for that look good—which means a political advantage going into next year’s election is there for Trump’s taking.
When the Swamp compromises on immigration, the beneficiaries are Big Business and minority interest groups. The Farm Modernization Workforce Act is just more crooked “bipartisanship.”
And it’s another raw deal for the Historic American Nation.
Washington Watcher II [Email him] is an anonymous DC insider.