Rewarding illegal immigration by granting mass amnesty has traditionally been a tough sell with the American public. So, the marketing strategy for amnesty advocates is to sell the American people on the idea that millions of illegal aliens are actually doing us a favor by being here, and that granting them legal permanent residence is the least we can do to thank them.
New legislation in Congress aims to fulfill our “debt” to illegal aliens who are defined as essential to our economy. “Every day, over five million essential workers without permanent legal status kept Americans healthy, fed, and safe during the COVID pandemic—all while risking their own health and the health of their families,” declared Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), who is sponsoring the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), another sponsor of the bill, was even more explicit in defining the amnesty measure as the fulfillment of an obligation. “The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act recognizes all that essential workers have given and will create a fair and accessible pathway to citizenship,” she said.
Given the rhetoric employed by the bill’s sponsors and advocates, one might get the impression that the people who stand to benefit from this “pathway to citizenship” are rare heroes who rendered extraordinary services at a time of great national need. Not quite. According to the bill’s authors, some 5.2 million illegal aliens performed “essential” work during COVID and must be duly rewarded—along with untold numbers of their family members. In fact, according to Sen. Warren’s fact sheet (in bold type), these 5.2 million illegal workers account for “almost 3 out of 4 undocumented workers in the United States.”
The House version of the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, H.R. 3043, lists 21 different categories (not including numerous subcategories) of essential workers who should be rewarded with green cards and eventual citizenship. We’re not just talking about an ER doctor who might have saved the lives of COVID victims in respiratory failure. Under this bill, essential workers, to name just a few, include the Grubhub guy who delivered take-out meals; commercial and residential landscapers; house cleaners; warehouse workers; janitors; and “laundromat and dry-cleaning operators.” (Where would we have been without the illegal workers who fluffed and folded through the COVID crisis?) It’s even harder to imagine what “nonessential” services the 25 percent of illegal workers not covered under this amnesty were performing.
Even more indicative of the fact that the legislation is just a transparently repackaged amnesty for just about everyone who is here illegally is that even people who did not perform “essential” work, or did so for just a very brief period while the public health emergency was in effect, are eligible to benefit. Illegal alien workers who lost their jobs in the designated sectors of the labor market due to COVID (much like a lot of American workers did) would still qualify for amnesty under the bill. So too would illegal aliens who quit their jobs in these industries during the pandemic because they feared for their own health and safety.
Every job in America is essential to someone – to the workers who get paid to do them, the business owners who employ them, and the customers and clients who avail themselves of the products and services provided. And while illegal aliens performed jobs in the 21 categories defined as “essential,” so too did countless millions of Americans with no expectation that doing so entitled them to anything more than the agreed upon compensation for their labor.
Illegal immigration is not an act of altruism and does not need to be rewarded as such. Every person who violates our immigration laws does so because it serves a personal interest, not out of a burning desire to provide a service – essential or otherwise – to the American people. The American public has consistently opposed mass illegal alien amnesties because they reject the idea of rewarding lawbreaking in principle. Labeling three-quarters of the people working in this country illegally as “essential” and selling amnesty as a debt that we owe to them is unlikely to change any minds and would only encourage more illegal immigrants to come.
Ira Mehlman is media director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.