This week, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) released a statement warning the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform plan “would grant green cards and citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants, providing them with guaranteed access to all welfare and entitlement programs.”
In politics this is called the pivot. Sessions is steering the debate away from immigration reform to welfare. These two subjects have long been linked as much of the opposition to immigration reform revolves around giving tax payer funded benefits to non-citizens.
Ultimately, the senator is tapping into the most passionate disagreement about immigration reform: money.
After all, money makes the world go ‘round.
Now, there are some academic arguments concluding that illegal immigration is a net positive for taxpayers even though some receive welfare benefits. Others offer opposite results, saying illegal immigrants drain state coffers and bring additional hidden costs.
Truth be told, those numbers are hard to track because as Sen. John McCain likes to say, many of them “live in the shadows.” The lack of consensus creates a need to have separate arguments.
One debate should solely focus on immigration: Citizenship, legal status and guest workers. The other should center on benefits and welfare for immigrants and Americans alike.
Perhaps if Sessions is dissuaded from supporting the latest immigration reform bill due to its implied costs, he should offer a welfare reform bill to counteract and help either offset or reduce those costs.
Philosophically, American citizenship guarantees nothing more than governmental recognition of “certain inalienable rights” that have been spelled out in the founding documents. But gradually since 1789, American citizenship has gone beyond this recognition of rights. It has added a cost — and a significant one at that — because Americans are eligible to receive welfare if you qualify, Social Security when you retire and a guarantee of health care.
Unfortunately, citizens won’t be clamoring to give up the costs of their American citizenship.
Perhaps that too, like immigration, is worthy of reforming.