July 16, 2000, Newspres.com
Guest Perspective / Diana Hull

Amnesty ad infinitum: How much are beaver skins worth?

Amnesty for illegal aliens in the United States is the ultimate immigrant benefit. It is now a joint goal of the Clinton administration and the Latino Caucus in Sacramento, which is pushing a legislative package that contains new, as well as decades old, Hispanic interest-group entitlement proposals.

The Caucus also wants more human rights and justice bills to "protect minority and immigrant communities from hate crimes and violence."

This kind of legislation has been useful in muzzling opponents and will increase the power of statewide human relations commissions to challenge what can be said about immigration and immigrants.

These bills, plus the recommendation for another amnesty, comprise a cluster of related legislation introduced by California's newest Latino lawmakers in the past year and a half.

Hispanics are now 14.5 percent of registered voters in California -- compared to 10 percent in 1990 -- and gave Democrat Gray Davis a 78-18 percent majority of the Latino vote in the 1998 governor's race. Al Gore had a 58-17 edge over George Bush with California's Hispanic voters in the recent presidential primary.

A third of the approximately 6 million illegal aliens in the United States live in California, so the best way to further increase the Democrat majority, especially in our state, is by forgiving illegal entry over and over again. Right now, the Clinton administration and the California Legislature are working in tandem on this issue, apparently unconcerned about how amnesties further encourage defiance of the law. Few lessons were learned in the wake of the 1986 amnesty -- a fiasco that Robert Suro of The New York Times called the "one of the most extensive immigration frauds ever perpetuated against the U.S. government."

But California's Latino Caucus can be optimistic that it will prevail eventually in legislative battles because the force of demography is an instant probability, and the numbers are on its side. The immediate future looks promising, too. Gov. Gray Davis believes that U.S. strength is in its diversity, and his lieutenant governor agrees. Cruz Bustamonte is the first Latino to hold that office in over 100 years.

The Assembly majority leader is Antonio Villaraigosa, ex-MEChA (Moviemento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) activist and former president of the Southern California ACLU. Assemblyman Villaraigosa was the only Latino elected official to speak at the Latino March in Washington, D.C., where he touted the legislation promoted by the Latino leadership in Sacramento and spoke fervently about the right of "undocumented people" to free medical care and education through college. He demanded another amnesty for those living in the U.S. illegally.

Last May, Speaker Villaraigosa joined Mexican President Zedillo in addressing the California Legislature. Although both men are thoroughly fluent in English, they both made their speeches in Spanish. Then Villariagosa stood and began the Chicano handclap. Without knowing what they were doing -- as calls to their offices confirmed -- the rest of the legislators joined this spirited display of ethnic nationalism and started clapping, too.

Any high school or college student in Southern California has heard this sound -- clap-clap, clap-clap-clap -- and understands its meaning. Like displaying the Mexican flag, it is the MEChA trademark clap and hails Chicano power.

When Speaker Villairogosa was campaigning on behalf of 46th District Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, he advised voters in Spanish that "Congressional welfare reform was an attack on our people, intended to punish our immigrant companions and to punish our community."

Reversing these unwanted changes and adding more benefits is a broad public policy objective for Hispanic groups nationally, and these goals are pursued most actively in California where they meet less resistance and have the best chance for continued success.

The belief in immigrant victimization, which underlies this preferential-treatment agenda -- laws that requires special dispensations, preferences and taxpayer subsidies, were not originally the invention of immigrants. These ideas came from the liberal foundations that laid out the strategy of redress and supported those efforts with significant grants beginning decades ago.

Prof. Miles D. Wolpin points out that assigning a morally superior position and legal status to ethnic minorities, even those who break the law, "intensifies resentment and alienation among lower middle-class and working-class majorities."

There are some small signs that such considerations may eventually have an effect on California's non-Hispanic Democrat legislators. This is born out by the votes cast and not cast on certain immigrant entitlement bills offered so far in the legislative session. The voting was strictly along party lines. But when Democrats opposed part of the Latino agenda, they usually abstained or were absent for the vote -- an easier out than opposition up front.

What follows is a sample of immigration-related bills that Latino Caucus members introduced in the California Legislature in the past year.

Assemblyman Cedilla of the 46th District introduced AB 407, which would make undocumented immigrants a "protected class" under what is popularly known in California as the Unruh Civil Rights Act. This bill would outlaw discrimination of any kind against the undocumented and states that they can't be denied any "advantages, privileges or services" based on immigration status. AB 407 cleared the Assembly, but failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It will likely be reconsidered and voted on again. This protected-status measure was intended as both a sword and a shield to pre-empt any future challenge to giving the same benefits that are enjoyed by citizens to both legal and illegal aliens.

AB1463 (Cedillo) permits illegal aliens to get a driver's license, one of the most valuable and versatile of benefits. This bill passed the Assembly but was stalled in the Senate Transportation Committee last session. It came back in June of this year and would give illegal aliens tacit approval to work in California, despite being prohibited from doing so by federal immigration laws. Supporters of this bill claimed it was a public safety issue and would ensure that all drivers were tested. The unspoken selling point was that illegals were going to drive anyway -- licensed or not, insured or not -- so what was the harm in regularizing reality!

Opponents of the bill argued that a driver's license is the most commonly accepted proof of identity. It is known as "the keys to the vault," a "breeder" document because with it you can identify yourself as a citizen, apply for subsidized housing, bank loans and myriad benefits.

Each time this bill surfaced, Californians for Population Stabilization, five other California immigration reform groups and the Federation for American Immigration Reform alerted its members by e-mail and letter to lobby members of the Transportation Committee. In this instance, two committee Democrats were willing to vote "no."

The goals of the California Latino Caucus are virtually identical to those of the national Hispanic leadership. First on both lists are continuing amnesties and eventual voting rights for non-citizens. Non-citizen voting occurs now on an unknown scale, either as result of bogus identification or because the would-be voter is not asked about citizenship.

It is the permeability of the United States, combined with the increasing scope of legislation that intentionally blurs to invisibility whatever differences are at least theoretically in place to distinguish between citizens, legal residents and illegal resident aliens.

To ensure that all immigrants are eligible for all benefits, California bill AB 1107, for example, specifically makes pregnant undocumented immigrants eligible for prenatal care. This bill passed and was signed by the governor. AB 43 and SB 92 give undocumented immigrant children health insurance under the Healthy Families Program, but no money for this benefit was incorporated into the budget at passage.

Stan Dorn, author of the study "HMO Marketing to Children," estimated that this insurance program would open up a $4.4 billion market because the state was going to reimburse HMO's $992 a year for every child enrolled. Then Republicans got into the act. A bill authored by Charlene Zettel, R-San Diego, was passed by the Assembly that would allow HMOs to contact families of such children directly. AB 52 allows undocumented immigrants to receive various other medical services, including nursing-home care, treatment for Alzheimer's disease, services for the developmentally disabled and mental-health care. This bill cleared the Assembly and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. For now, only the nursing-home care provision survived as SB 708 and was signed by the governor.

AB 1197 allows undocumented immigrants to pay resident tuition at California universities, rather than out-of-state fees. The higher non-resident fees would still be charged to a citizen student from Ohio or Oregon. This issue and the decision against the University of California granting resident status to illegals in the Bradford case (1991), has the same emotional charge for Hispanic activists as Roe vs. Wade has for the pro-life lobby.

The University of California and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund fought for resident status for illegal alien college students all the way to the state Supreme Court, which refused to hear it. MALDEF lost twice, the second time representing the California State University system. In spite of these defeats, the Latino Caucus will not take no for an answer. No definitive action has been taken on this bill as of this writing. But AB 1197 is only the latest and surely not the last attempt to reverse the court's decision by legislation.

SJR 18, a joint resolution, asked the federal government to give some relief to Imperial County by having the Border Patrol stop availing itself of the local 9-1-1 services. It requests this federal agency to reimburse Imperial County and private providers for medical care, autopsies and burial costs for undocumented persons.

SB 1007 requires the California Department of Corrections to release undocumented immigrant felons in state prison to the INS upon completion of their sentences. This was considered an unfriendly bill by the Latino Caucus and was opposed by MALDEF, which claimed the requirements pre-empted federal law. It was also opposed by the ACLU. At this writing, no action has been taken on this bill.

On March 2, Assemblyman Cedillo introduced AJR 51 whose most important provision was to ask the federal government to implement a new amnesty program, out of respect, the bill stated, for all the nation's workers. It would grant legal status to 500,000 Central Americans and Haitians, 10,000 Liberians and 350,000 illegal aliens who were denied amnesty in 1986.

At about the same time, the AFL-CIO called for the repeal of employer sanctions against hiring illegals and for a massive amnesty for the approximately 6 million illegal aliens who live in the United States. This embrace of competition for American workers, especially union members, was a puzzling about-face for a group that had historically tried to keep wages high. There was speculation about infiltration of the organization by outside forces, perhaps hostile to labor's traditional concerns.

AJR 51, the request-for-amnesty bill, was defeated for the time being on May 8, likely due to heavy lobbying via e-mail, letters, faxes and phone calls by Californians for Population Stabilization and its members, and by the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Ric Oberlink, a former CAPS executive director, testified for the organization in person. He told legislators the last amnesty of some 3 million illegal aliens had cost taxpayers about $78 billion over the first 10 years, according to a study by the Center for Immigration Studies.

Either ambivalence about this amnesty bill or fear of opposing the Latino Caucus was evidenced by the 30 members of the Assembly who abstained, preventing the "ayes" from having enough votes for passage. In spite of this setback, bills that request amnesty for illegals are destined to join resident tuition as measures that will be introduced repeatedly as the California Latino Caucus grows. Success is only a matter of time, unless citizens who oppose measures like this find out what is happening in Sacramento and decide to assert themselves.

In November of last year President Clinton informed Congress he would veto any final appropriations bill that did not include a new amnesty provision for illegal aliens, but this add-on was later delayed until the following session. Attaching amnesties to appropriations bills has become a reliable tactic in this administration; the Haitian amnesty was passed in this way in 1998.

On May 11, Numbers USA, a non-profit group that monitors U.S. population change, FAIR, CAPS and the California Coalition for Immigration Reform informed their members that President Clinton was trying to use the full force of the White House to reward 1.5 million of the nation's illegal aliens with permanent residence and the prospect of eventual citizenship. This was being attached as an amendment to the H1-B Visa Bill.

Clinton's announcement put Republicans on the spot. If they didn't give Clinton his amnesty and he vetoed the spending bill, they could be blamed -- again -- for shutting down the government.

Roy Beck of Numbers USA estimated there would be about 700,000 amnesty applicants, but with the arrival of their family members, amnesty would add over 2 million more people to our already overcrowded country. A large percentage would settle in Southern California.

Now immigration rights organizations have filed class-action lawsuits because their illegal alien clients not only want amnesty, but millions of dollars in damages for not being granted amnesty earlier under the current law. Meanwhile back in California, the AFL-CIO Immigrant Worker's Rights Forum was setting up demonstrations all over Los Angeles to support the new amnesty and the repeal of employer sanctions. Evidently, the union was now taking to heart what Assemblyman Cedillo had told the Southwest Voter's Registration Project attendees in 1997. At that meeting he had boasted that "Latinos are now central to union revitalization" because they have "displaced blacks and Anglos in the clothing, hotel and restaurant industries."

Because of immigration and high birth rates, unions can be "partisan" he said, in promoting "full Latino empowerment."

Other groups co-sponsored citywide rallies for amnesty -- the Teacher's Union, One-Stop Immigration, Hermanadad Mexicana Nacional, the familiar national and regional immigrant rights organizations and the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

President Clinton was working hard for amnesty, too. Why was an amnesty so important to him, you might wonder, when Hispanics make up less than 12 percent of the U.S. population. Well, 32 million of that 12 percent are concentrated in the states that deliver the big electoral votes -- California, Florida, Texas New York, New Jersey and Illinois. Hispanics register as Democrats in much larger number than as Republicans. That makes a big difference, especially in California, where a million new Hispanic voters have registered in the last decade, marking the biggest change in the state's electorate since World War II. The other five states mentioned above are on the same track.

Amnesties encourage more immigration and increasing immigrant benefits adds to the pull factor. Together they hasten the changes that will make the non-Hispanic population in California, and then nationwide, both numerical and ethnic minorities.

Mexico has a big stake in hastening this outcome. It means enhanced transfers of funds from the U.S. to Mexico. Increasing the $5 billion in remittances now sent home by U.S. residents of Mexican origin will continue to ease reformist pressure on their government. For this and other reasons, Mexico wants to weaken both U.S. entry controls and interior enforcement and eventually make our two very different nations continuous.

The next effort to achieve this blurring of sovereignty is going to be the establishment of extensive bi-national areas straddling the U.S./Mexican border. This will be defended as an expansion of commerce and could be the precursor to unhampered travel between the two countries, following the example of the European Union.

Former President Zedillo has been exceptionally public and forthright about where this policy is heading. In a speech in 1997 to the National Council of La Raza he said, "I have proudly affirmed that the Mexican nation extends beyond the territory enclosed by its borders."

On this occasion he announced the proposed amendment to the Mexican Constitution that would allow anyone with recent Mexican heritage, who was now a citizen of another country, to maintain Mexican nationality and voting rights in Mexico.

Mexican-Americans voting in Mexico's elections is a companion issue to voting rights in the United States for non-citizens. Advocates of this idea insist all residents should be able to vote and that residency under state law is distinct from the person's immigration status under federal law. This is the same argument used in favor of resident tuition for illegal aliens in California colleges.

Progress toward all these objectives continues apace, and accolades for the superior strategy of Hispanic political groups deserves recognition. Most astute is their manipulation of language, and the understanding it reveals about how the name you give to something can determine what you think about it. Expensive public relations firms earned their fees when they came up with phrases like "the scapegoating of immigrants" -- used in fighting Proposition 187 -- and "the greening of hate" -- used against environmental groups that oppose immigration's contribution to increased population.

But the most brilliant propaganda victory was the euphemism "undocumented immigrant" for "illegal alien," a term that by sheer repetition rendered an accurate description of status that is codified in law so pejorative that it became impermissible and transformed illegal aliens into folks with curable legal paper deficiencies, i.e. the differently documented immigrant.

This dishonest description is challenged infrequently, and certainly not in the California legislature where it is used in the titles and language of every bill dealing with a class of persons from whom the onus of wrongdoing has been successfully removed.

More immigration and amnesty ad infinitum interact with each other to ratchet up the growth of the nation even faster than experts predict. Frequent amnesties make illegality both temporary and reversible because illegal aliens are virtually never removed permanently once they reach the interior of the United States, and are rarely deported except if they are dangerous felons, and not always then.

Six million people live and work in the United States without permission, many for decades. They are able to do that partly because they cannot be asked routinely about their status -- an inquiry that could violate their civil rights.

The precedent of the 1986 amnesty and subsequent amnesties, the availability of bogus identities, the conflicting mandates from Congress to the INS, and the reluctance of the public to be energized on this issue has made it possible for the most selfish of political and business interests to continue what writer Peter Brimelow has called a "stupid and evil policy."

Stupid because cheap labor is not cheap and the demand for this temporary gratification is more than offset by its long-term price; evil because a nation that stabilized its population in 1970 will now leave an overcrowded and very different country to its descendants -- a place where serious ethnic strife is looming and where the bounty of nature can no longer be counted on to sustain its own citizens.

Yet immigration advocates insist that admitting more people is all for the best and associate restriction with pessimism and wrong-headed populism. Yet, there is clearly no popular support in California for continuous growth and the resource depletion that follows. In fact, on few issues have such a large majority of voters made its wishes more perfectly clear to elected officials.

But instead of responding to the voter's mandate for a slowdown in demographic and cultural change, expressed in three successful initiatives 187 (illegal alien benefits), 209 (affirmative action) and 227(bilingual education), both President Clinton and Gov. Davis are intend on garnering for their party even bigger Democrat majorities. This is the long-term goal of the current amnesty efforts.

Democrats in our state now have a governor in office, two U.S. senators and a majority in Sacramento in control of all the top state offices. But in an election year, they work for even bigger numbers, ASAP, although the ethnic, and therefore the political future of California is already assured. Seventy percent of all students in the Los Angeles Unified School District are Hispanic.

The fraud-ridden Citizens USA program and the Southwest Voter's Registration Project have been favorite vote-getting vehicles for Clinton and Gore. And door-to-door registration is a major activity for the dozens of pro-immigration Hispanic activist groups who receive millions in taxpayer funds and foundation largesse to sign people up to vote.

Assembly Bill 2000, by Speaker Villaraigosa, calls for a California Civil Rights Commission -- a state agency to "prevent intergroup tensions" and a place where "bias-motivated incidents" can be dealt with. It would serve as a shield against those who may object to current immigration levels and the lessening of requirements for citizenship,

More than 20 so-called hate violence bills were introduced in the 1999-2000 session, revealing a concern that opposition to high immigration levels might erupt fairly soon. This is a well-founded fear because majority objections to current policy have been demonstrated by virtually every opinion poll that has been taken on the subject -- not surprising since more than 6 million Californians voted for Proposition 187.

Curbs on speech could constrain objections to a multiculturalism that many believe have run amok -- a result of our virtually open borders and past amnesties -- policies that increase California's unmanageably large population and interfere with the mutuality than comes from common cultural ideals. Immigration reductionists wonder, if diversity is so wonderful, why do we need these new initiatives to reduce inter-group tension and hate crime? If the goal of the government is to eliminate our separation from Mexico in stages, then the response of federal authorities to protecting our borders becomes comprehensible. If illegal crossing will be forgiven eventually, it is wasteful of resources to try too hard to keep people out.

In Douglas, Arizona, it is ranchers who are arming to keep thousands of Mexican nationals from crossing their property, cutting their fences and breaking into their houses. The response from Washington has been tepid, so a decision to permit this incursion has likely been made at the highest level.

What other interpretation is possible when the means to stop it are withheld, and the psychology of an effective defense, that every war college teaches, has been turned on its head.

In "Scenes at Fort Laramie," Francis Parkman described how the Dahcotah comported themselves in 1846 when new settlers lapsed in a show of their confidence. "They (the Dahcotahs) become ever more insolent and exacting in their demands," he wrote, "and with each demand acceded to, they become more presumptuous and rapacious. Any timorousness on the part of the settlers creates a very dangerous situation," he warned, "that mounts to a higher pitch with each concession -- after which the Indians 'threaten them with more destruction or kill them.'" Parkman wrote that "military force and military law are urgently needed in this perilous region" and advised "a very bold bearing that commanded respect."

The behavior of our federal and state government today on our perilous border would surely embarrass the corps at Fort Laramie. Instead of a "bold bearing" we see self-serving inaction and political duplicity, reminiscent of the perfidy of the French trappers of 150 years ago who instigated those Indian attacks on American wagon trains -- and all for the purpose of guarding their traffic in beaver skins.

Diana Hull is president of Too Many People, a California non-profit organization.