The 2020 presidential election is shaping up to be one of the most consequential electoral events in American history. In the midst of a global pandemic, Americans will choose between the ever-controversial President Donald Trump and his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, whose policy positions continue drifting to the left. Nowhere is this more evident than in the issue of immigration, where Joe Biden and his running mate, Democratic California Sen. Kamala Harris, promise nothing less than to enact the largest amnesty – upwards of 11 million illegal aliens – in the nation’s history.
The Biden-Harris plan would create policies that would add over 46 million legal immigrants to the United States by increasing legal immigration and through amnesty legislation. Their indifference toward immigration enforcement means that millions of future illegal aliens could, and likely will, enter the United States, lured by an executive branch uninterested in enforcing immigration law. The Biden-Harris plan is the complete antithesis of President Trump’s promise to increase immigration enforcement and move to a merit-based legal immigration system that prioritizes the skills and talents of potential immigrants, rather than their family connections.
The consequences of the Biden-Harris plan are both political and practical.
Politically, the Biden-Harris plan all but promises to eliminate competitive national elections. A pathway to citizenship means that millions of new, naturalized citizens — formerly illegal aliens — now have a vote. Amnestying these aliens immediately alters the political makeup of states such as Texas, Florida, Arizona and Georgia, which are either reliably Republican states or key swing votes. This is not theoretical. Both Pew Hispanic and a University of Maryland study confirm that most immigrants — both legal and illegal — lean toward or outright support the Democratic Party while mostly eschewing the GOP. This is obviously not written in stone, and political preferences often change in the long-term. But in the immediate future, the amnesty of 11 million illegal aliens and the expansion of legal immigration levels likely solidifies Democratic command of the electoral college in future presidential contests.
Practically, the Biden plan will place enormous strain on our country’s economy, welfare programs and opportunities. The former vice president’s promise to “provide a roadmap to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants,” is only contingent upon these illegal aliens registering for the hypothetical program, paying taxes and passing a background check. The economic consequences of this proposal are plainly apparent.
Although many illegal aliens receive some forms of government assistance through their U.S.-born children, they individually cannot qualify for federal and state welfare programs. After the inauguration, if a Democratic Congress is able to pass the Biden-Harris plan, that immediately changes. Millions of amnestied illegal aliens would earn access to these programs overnight, and many of them will qualify for them. This is, of course, not a moral failing of any kind on their part. But these are things that policymakers have to consider. Our welfare programs, and particularly Social Security, are simply running out of money and could not survive the addition of 11 million recently amnestied aliens to their rolls. Work authorization improves the wages of former illegal alien workers, but hardly elevates the majority to levels above what they are likely to take out in services.
The Biden-Harris plan also comes at a unique time in our country’s history. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage our economy and society months after its arrival on our shores. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the August unemployment rate was 8.4 percent nationally, more than twice as much as the pre-COVID level of 3.5 percent. Even with some improvements, the economic situation remains dire and millions of Americans are out of work.
Particularly affected are those working in the service industry. These workers compete directly with low-skilled foreign workers, both illegally present and those here legally in guest worker programs. It is for this very reason that President Trump temporarily paused most of our guest worker admissions in his June 2020 executive order, noting that they “pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.” The Biden-Harris plan turns this on its head by suggesting we add millions of new, legally authorized workers to the labor force. Why would we make a bad labor market even worse by amnestying millions of illegal aliens who will begin directly competing with Americans for limited jobs?
The practical and political consequences of the Biden-Harris plan are vast, but sadly their plan has gained little national attention thus far. Hopefully upcoming debates will allow the former vice president to explain this plan to the American public. The former vice president has made big promises in other aspects of policy, from global warming to healthcare and everything in between. But it’s his immigration proposal, whose size and scope will affect nearly every facet of American life, that needs the nation’s full attention.
Preston Huennekens is a Government Relations Associate at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).