VDARE.com stalwart Brenda Walker's recent news that Chairman Goodlatte Supports Path to Legalization (referring to Congressman Bob Goodlatte [R-Virginia], chair of the House Judiciary Committee) is alarming because it shows, once again, that a lot of people in important places apparently don't grasp something that's absolutely basic: Citizenship isn't the thing, as far as most illegal aliens are concerned; all they care about is being free from worries about deportation, a freedom that simple legalization provides them. (Non-citizens do still risk deportation if they commit enough crimes.)
So if Goodlatte was actually conceding on legalization ... well, as Brenda has written repeatedly, "Legalization IS Amnesty." I collected a handful of alternative statements of that same basic idea in a prior blog entry, which also includes the quotation I've used as title for this blog piece.
But what about my assertion that most illegal aliens don't care about citizenship? How do I know?
There's strong evidence for this in a two-page fact sheet from the Office of Immigration Statistics in the Department of Homeland Security [DHS], Naturalization Rates among IRCA
Immigrants: A 2009 Update [PDF], by Bryan Baker, October 2010. Here's the summary finding:
Nearly 2.7 million persons became LPRs under IRCA, including 1.6 million pre-1982s and 1.1 million SAWs. By the end of 2009, 1.1 million IRCA immigrants had naturalized.
["LPR" means "legal permanent resident," "IRCA" means the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986—i.e. Reagan's amnesty—and "SAW" means "special agricultural worker." The SAW amnesty was a component of the overall IRCA amnesty.]
David North, a Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and expert on a vast range of immigration sub-topics, told me, "By 2009, the vast majority [of IRCA-amnesty recipients] had been eligible for naturalization for 15 years." (A review of many aspects of IRCA is available in a January, 2010 Center backgrounder by North, A Bailout for Illegal Immigrants? Lessons from the Implementation of the 1986 IRCA Amnesty. [PDF])
So there you have it: Most of the IRCA beneficiaries could have applied for citizenship by 1994, but by 2009, only 41 percent (i.e. 1.1 divided by 2.7) had bothered to do so.
That DHS report also compares naturalization percentages in 2009 between legal immigrants and illegal aliens who had entered the U.S. at about the same time, and it breaks down its various categories between aliens from Mexico and aliens from all other countries. These figures show that aliens from Mexico heavily dominated the IRCA legalizations and that they naturalized in much lower proportions than aliens from other countries.
I assume that the behavior of the 2.7 million IRCA amnesty-ites is a useful predictor for the behavior of the 11-million-plus illegal aliens who would be legalized if the current Senate horror, S.744, actually becomes law. This seems reasonable, as the character of the two populations is similar, including its heavy domination by aliens from Mexico.
Finally, what about that quotation in my title? I used it here partly because of the nation's experience with immigrants and the 1996 welfare-reform law. As Mark Krikorian wrote in the chapter "Government Spending" of his 2008 book The New Case Against Immigration, Both Legal and Illegal:
[T]he immigration-related parts of the big 1996 welfare-reform law (the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act) tried to limit immigrant welfare eligibility. The law kicked immigrants already here off SSI [Supplemental Security Income — PN] and food stamps (though that was never fully enforced), and future immigrants were barred for five years from most means-tested benefits. ... [T]he national-origin groups most likely to receive welfare before the law's passage saw the biggest increases in naturalization rates after its passage, because once an immigrant attains citizenship, the alien-specific welfare limits no longer apply.
Of course, the population of suddenly-naturalizing aliens, circa 1996, that Krikorian wrote about mustn't have great overlap with those who received legal residence via IRCA, as the main point here is the scant naturalization among the "class of IRCA" and its implication for the present pool of illegal aliens. But the larger point remains: Immigrants to the U.S. in recent decades aren't primarily oriented to joining our polity. Instead, they're here to extract what they can in material benefits.