I was dining in downtown Boston with a long-time acquaintance of Teddy Kennedy at the very time the Senator died a week ago. We had discussed what had caused Kennedy to pursue immigration policies that so fundamentally changed America. I got the news when I awoke the next morning to the Massachusetts TV stations doing their eulogies. I decided to wait until after burial to share my thoughts.
Since NumbersUSA is a truly non-partisan and non-ideological organization, I want to choose my words carefully because so many of our members absolutely hated Kennedy while many others of our members truly loved many of Kennedy's policies (although fully disagreeing with him on immigration).
The first group saw his immigration policies as emblematic of a Kennedy inclination to destroy the America as they loved it. The second group saw his immigration policies as an aberration that fatally undermined what they saw as many wonderful Kennedy initiatives to improve America.
Whichever it was -- or something in between -- Ted Kennedy's immigration policies have destroyed the ability of the United States to be an environmentally sustainable nation in any decade soon because of the gigantic U.S. population growth that he has forced.
And Ted Kennedy's immigration policies have knocked hundreds of thousands of Americans out of the middle class as their occupations have collapsed and wages declined because of inundation with Kennedy's favored foreign workers, or because they have directly lost their jobs to foreign competitors.
HE WAS AN EXCEPTIONALLY SKILLFUL OPPONENT
For those of us desiring the traditional lower numerical immigration that, ironically, Pres. John Kennedy had advocated in his A Nation of Immigrants book, it was our great misfortune that the person leading our opponents in pursuing ever-higher numbers these last 45 years was perhaps the most skillful Senator of the last half-century in getting things done his way.
Ted Kennedy surely was one of the most influential Senators in our history.
His influence on immigration alone brought more change to America than the work of any other Senator during my lifetime.
Just as a reminder, let's make a short list of the immigration policies that Kennedy and his extremely talented staff put into effect:
- The 1965 revamp of the entire immigration system. It ended 40 years of low immigration, got rid of solid numerical caps and opened up chain migration into every overpopulated country in the world, exploding annual immigration numbers.
- Massive expansion of the refugee programs in the late 1970s, opening up massive loopholes and encouraging a domestic resettlement industry that became a major lobby for more and more overall immigration.
- The 1986 blanket amnesty. Kennedy's skills may have been best seen here where he got legislators on our side to agree to the amnesty in exchange for enforcement rules that he made sure were written in a way that would not work. Within a decade, he would be using the inability to enforce the 1986 rules as an excuse for why we needed more green cards and more amnesties. An example of Kennedy's great skill was that he persuaded Ronald Reagan to enthusiastically support this bill.
- The 1990 immigration act, which increased overall immigration by another 35%. The first Pres. Bush was Kennedy's co-partner, just as the second Pres. Bush was Kennedy's eager co-partner in trying to force through another blanket amnesty 2001-2008.
- The 1990 act also established the lottery whereby we randomly give away 50,000 green cards a year to people in countries picked because they have the least ties and cultural association with the United States, and which disproportionately are terrorist-sponsoring countries. This was something of a compromise for Kennedy who was able to ensure that during the first few years, much of the lottery winners would be illegal aliens from Ireland -- his own ethnic group.
- The H-1B visas which have enabled corporations to keep hundreds of thousands of American kids from getting a foothold in the high tech industry.
- The total defeat of liberal civil rights champion Barbara Jordan's blue-ribbon commission recommendations to reduce overall immigration and eliminate chain migration and the lottery in 1996.
- Six mini-amnesties that passed in the 1990s, primarily aimed at specific nationalities.
BUT YOU BEAT HIM REPEATEDLY SINCE 2000
As depressing as his immigration victories are to contemplate, you should feel some comfort in the fact that he was totally a failure after the year 2000 in expanding his immigration dream still further.
Every year since 2000, Sen. Kennedy pushed an amnesty. Every year, he pushed increases in foreign workers.
But every year, Sen. Kennedy's efforts were stopped by public pressure.
I believe an important reason for that was that during the late 1990s, NumbersUSA was building a counter-force. Under Jim Robb's foresight, we created an innovative internet grassroots mobilization system and raised an ever-expanding army. And Capitol Hill veteran Rosemary Jenks had gone to Kennedy's territory to get her law degree from Harvard. She arrived back in Washington in August of 2001 and set up our Capitol Hill offices and operations.
After 25 years of almost always getting his way on immigration, Ted Kennedy's power and influence were checked after August 2001.
But his power has still been strong enough to prevent us from success in rolling back the destructive immigration policies he put in place from 1965 through 2000.
While he no longer was able to accelerate the change, his continuing immigration policies every year make the quality of life in the United States worse. Until we change those policies, Ted Kennedy's immigration legacy will continue to deteriorate our American dreams of economic justice and environmental sustainability and individual liberty.
KENNEDY UNDERMINED WHAT HE SAID WERE HIS HIGHEST PRINCIPLES
At the graveside service in Arlington National Cemetery, we learned what Ted Kennedy wanted the Pope to know about the principles that drove him. Retired Cardinal McCarrick read from an appeal to the pope for a final blessing, written we presume by Kennedy in his last weeks:
I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith, I have tried to right my path. I want you to know, Your Holiness, that in my nearly 50 years of elective office, I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I've worked to welcome the immigrant, fight discrimination and expand access to health care and education. . . .
This was a typical comment among the thousands who honored Ted Kennedy this last week:
Senator Kennedy helped change the character of the immigration system, and indeed the country, bringing the United States a step closer to its founding ideals of fairness and opportunity for all.
-- Former Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner Doris Meisner
Hmmm, what ideals of fairness did Meisner have in mind? Does she think it was fair to drive all those American drywallers out of their jobs? How about all the American meat packer workers who lost their jobs and incomes to Kennedy's army of immigrant workers? Of course, Meisner was the chief of enforcing immigration laws that she thought were unfair and out of step with our nation's ideals. She and Kennedy fundamentally believed that our laws limiting immigration are evil or unjust.
But NumbersUSA's website is full of page after page of information showing that Kennedy's immigration policies have in fact undermined the ability of the poor to find good-paying jobs and to get on the ladder of opportunity.
The policies have undermined the fight against discrimination by making it easy for businesses to ignore poor American Black job applicants in favor of high-motivated immigrant workers. The plight of the Black underclass seems as intractable today as during the 1960s.
Kennedy's policies have driven scores of urban school districts backwards through over-crowding and through overwhelming already precarious schools with masses of non-English-speaking students from impoverished homes.
Ted Kennedy's immigration policies aren't even good for the immigrants who already are here. There is little opportunity in this nation today for millions of immigrants who must constantly compete with the next decade's millions upon millions of new foreign workers.
WHY DID KENNEDY UNDERMINE HIS OWN DREAMS OF OPPORTUNITY, EQUALITY, EDUCATION
Among less-immigration advocates, a debate has long waged over whether the gigantic changes from immigration were what Kennedy sought, or if they were mostly an unintended consequence that he chose to ignore.
Why was he willing to allow his immigration policies to diminish -- and in some cases -- negate his efforts in other areas?
Among those who disliked Kennedy the most, there has been a sense that Ted Kennedy fundamentally distrusted and disliked the citizens of this country. The line of thinking is something like this: Even though the majority of these citizens had elected his brother President, and appeared likely to elect another brother to the office, Ted Kennedy wanted a different citizenry. Perhaps there was a sub-conscious hatred for the overall American people because of the assassinations (although one assassin was a foreigner and the other had tried to emigrate to the Soviet Union). Perhaps he had some Irish immigrant chips on his shoulder about WASPS disrespecting his family. If he disliked the balance of power among the citizens of this country, wildly increasing immigration levels could largely shift the balance of political power and ideology in the country.
To whatever extent any of that was true, Kennedy's immigration policies certainly "elected a new citizenry." This country now has more than 50 million natives of other countries and their children. In a country of 300 million, that is an incredible influence on every aspect of our political and social and economic lives, don't you think.
Most of those 50 million are here as a result of the policies Kennedy put in place.
Among people with a softer and perhaps more human view, Kennedy simply paid no attention to the consequences of his immigration policies. This line of thinking is something like this: Even if he had paid attention to the consequences, his commitment to high immigration was so great, there was no way he could have pulled back.
Back in Boston last week, I gave my dinner companion those two big choices. Even though he is 100% against Kennedy's immigration policies and largely in opposition to other Kennedy positions, this acquaintance since childhood of Ted Kennedy and his family told me he cannot believe the Senator had a grand plan to radically change America.
"He's not smart enough for that," the acquaintance said. "But he has such a big heart." Kennedy's romanticism, sentimentalism and idealism were such that once he began to receive accolades from certain communities for his work on immigration, there was just no way he was ever going to stop, the acquaintance said.
He also said that he believes that, despite all the liberal veneer, Kennedy was deeply beholden to the country's banking titans and other globalist business entities who have so much interest in the free flow of international labor and in keeping the wages of Americans stagnant. (This was given credibility later when Kennedy was lauded for the great work he did to help the high-tech industry of Massachusetts to hire foreign computer programmers.)
I really don't know why Ted Kennedy did what he did on immigration. If his acquaintance is correct, it perhaps serves as a major warning to us about how to deal with all the national religious leaders, as well as our opponents in Congress, who probably really want to believe that pushing higher and higher immigration is truly God's will -- and who will never look at the practical consequences and the millions of American victims strewn across the American landscape like little memorials to idealism disconnected from concern about practical consequences.
ROY BECK is CEO & Founder of NumbersUSA