Paul Ryan, U. S. Representative, Chairman of the House Budget Committee and former vice-presidential candidate, recently declared that the federal war on poverty “has failed miserably.” No one argues. During the fifty years since President Lyndon Johnson first promised to end poverty, the United States has wasted $15 trillion; 46 million Americans live in poverty and 15 million more receive food stamps than before the 2007 recession started.
The complete story is worse than Ryan indicated. For every job that the White House claims to have created, two Americans have been added to the food stamp roles. Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported that four out of five U.S. adults have struggled with joblessness, near-poverty or welfare reliance for at least parts of their lives, a sure sign that the economy is deteriorating and the American dream more elusive than ever.
Despite the obvious truth that the last thing the nation needs when so many Americans are suffering is more people, especially more poor people like those who would be invited through the ill-conceived Senate immigration bill, S. 744, advocacy for the legislation grinds on.
Poorly written immigration bills like S. 744 translate into importing poverty. Historically, immigration legislation admitted only the foreign-born who would be self-sufficient. Those who entered but became welfare dependent were subject to deportation under the policy then known as the public charge doctrine.
Today, because of political correctness, the public charge doctrine has disappeared. Whether they are legal or illegal immigrants, the poor, under-educated and unskilled are welcome, even though jobs are few and budgets to fund more services depleted.
The current and future beneficiaries of lax immigration enforcement are Hispanics, which the Census Bureau has identified as the group with the nation’s highest poverty rate. On average, 23.2 percent of Hispanics live below the poverty line compared to the national average of 14.3 percent.
Ryan, a self-proclaimed budget-busting Republican, has curiously assumed Senator Marco Rubio’s role as the GOP’s most vocal proponent of granting amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants and importing millions more overseas workers. In private meetings with Senate and House members, Ryan has been trying to map out a strategy to pass amnesty legislation before the year’s end.
According to Ryan, passing a generous immigration reform bill is “the right thing to do.” But amnesty is the wrong thing, especially for millions of impoverished immigrant-headed households and the 20 million jobless or under-employed Americans. Part-time job creation now exceeds the numbers of full-time jobs added each month. Even Ryan, a supposed budget guru, can’t deny the math. Every authorized worker added to the labor market makes it tougher for unemployed Americans to find work.
Ryan is rumored to be considering a 2016 White House bid. Like Rubio earlier this year, Ryan may think that if he takes a leadership role in passing an immigration bill, his chances will improve. But immigration advocacy ended poorly for Rubio. In January, a Public Policy Polling report ranked Rubio number one among potential Republican presidential candidates. Today, after assuming a prominent role as the Gang of Eight’s most visible immigration advocate and promoting
S. 744 for months, Rubio ranks sixth.
Veteran Capitol Hill observers know that immigration is Congress’ most toxic issue. Wise politicians listen to their constituents who strongly oppose to rewarding illegal immigration with legalization and importing millions of overseas workers to compete with struggling Americans.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Email Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org.