- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008


Success has many fathers, and Barack Obama’s impressive electoral victory is no exception. Just about every special interest group with ties to the Democratic Party is claiming credit for putting Mr. Obama over the top and lining up to receive their just rewards.

Prominent among the many groups expecting to be paid off are the open borders and Hispanic ethnic interest lobbies. Already, these special interests are loudly asserting that Mr. Obama’s victory and the enhanced Democratic majority in Congress amount to a mandate for a sweeping illegal alien amnesty and increases in overall immigration to the U.S. The problem for them is that their claims of credit are wholly unsubstantiated.

To begin with, the Hispanic vote did not provide the margin of victory for Mr. Obama or the Democrats in a year when the electorate generally trended blue. Hispanics did vote for Mr. Obama and the Democrats in impressive numbers, but because of high rates of poverty they have long been a reliable Democratic constituency. According to a poll released by Univision on Election Day, 54 percent of Hispanic voters said that the economy was their biggest concern. Immigration policy was well down the list, cited by only 11 percent of Hispanic voters as their chief concern.

A post-election poll conducted by Zogby International on behalf of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) found that among all voters who pulled the lever for Obama there is little support for an illegal alien amnesty, much less anything that could reasonably be described as a mandate. Only 32 percent of Obama voters responded that the senator’s support for amnesty was even a factor in their decision to vote for him.

In spite of the fact that neither candidate discussed immigration during the campaign, the Zogby poll reveals that voters are still deeply concerned about illegal immigration. By a margin of 3 to 1 (60 percent to 21 percent), Americans prefer border and workplace enforcement to amnesty as the best approach for dealing with the problem. If Obama has a mandate to do anything about immigration when he moves into the White House, it is to secure our borders and punish employers who fill scarce American jobs with illegal aliens.

While President-elect Obama does not have a mandate to enact an illegal alien amnesty or throw open the gates to still higher levels of immigration, he does have a clear mandate from the voters to get our economy back on track and American workers back on the job. The employment picture is ghastly - 240,000 lost jobs in October alone and more than a million since the start of the year - and likely to get a whole lot worse before Mr. Obama is sworn-in.

If the public vehemently rejected President Bush’s attempt to enact amnesty in 2007, at a time when the economy was in reasonably good shape and we had near full employment, it is hard to imagine that the public’s position will have softened any with more than 10 million Americans officially out of work and countless millions more worried that they will soon be joining them on the unemployment line. Nor, as governments at all levels face catastrophic budget crises, are there the resources available to provide for the educational, health care and other needs of millions of amnestied illegal aliens and newly arriving family members.

Overwhelming public sentiment and economic circumstance leave the Obama administration with only one viable option for addressing immigration policy: vigorous enforcement of laws against businesses employing illegal aliens. These policies, belatedly begun by the Bush administration after the defeat of the 2007 amnesty bill, have met with widespread public support, and freed-up jobs desperately needed by our own citizens. As an early sign of good faith with working Americans who put him in office, President Obama would be well-served to push for reauthorization and expansion of the E-Verify program that allows employers to determine electronically the eligibility of workers.

With complete control of Washington, the fortunes of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party will likely rise or fall with the economy and the unemployment rate. A bruising battle over amnesty for illegal aliens, for which no mandate exists, will only compound what is already a difficult task and betray the trust of the voters.

Dan Stein is president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform

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