Fourteen years ago, the United States decided to allow a one-time amnesty for illegal immigrants, who then numbered 3 million. Now the number is up to 6 million.
Would another amnesty help curb unlawful immigration to the US?
Not on the face of it. Yet last week, organized labor reversed its long-time opposition and asked Congress to grant another amnesty.
The AFL-CIO plans to join with many employers desperate for low-wage workers and, in effect, seek an end-run on the nation's orderly process of letting in legal immigrants.
Where once unions saw illegal immigrants as competitors for jobs, they now see them as potential dues-paying members. They also hope an amnesty will curb employers from abusing migrant workers who fear being exposed as "undocumented."
While a new amnesty would be legal, it would not be fair to those migrants who waited years to enter the US legally. The Statue of Liberty, as the symbol of America's openness to immigrants, should not always stand above the statue of Blind Justice.
An amnesty would send a signal to those foreigners seeking to migrate to the US that they too should risk dangerous passage, endure unscrupulous employers, and hide out for years in hopes of yet another amnesty. It would also help lower the wages of those US natives who are on the low-income scale and not unionized.
The better way to bring in more workers and to help the illegals already here is to beef up immigration enforcement - both at the border and in the workplace - and expand legal immigration quotas.
Congress should ignore this about-face request by the AFL-CIO and fix the nation's immigration law with standards of fairness, not expediency.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society