Don’t worry Apu, to Republicans you aren’t the barrier with immigration reform.
Welcome brothers and sister. Pull up a pew. Drink this. Then let us preform the secret hand shake. Worry not child, for you are among friends. We know that you have questions when it comes to understanding the intricacies of life. But take solace in the fact that there is only one true spirit guide to answer your quarries! Political or otherwise. Right now you are but a Millhouse in a cruel and unforgiving world. This is “The Simpsons Did It”, a series in which we ask tough political questions and look into The Simpsons universe for answers. In this installment we ask the question, what are Republicans’ actual views on immigration reform? Come now. Let us wear the flood pants of political truth, where everything will “be coming up Millhouse!”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Republican-Virginia) made it clear to anyone that the Enlist Act, a piece of legislation that would legalize undocumented immigrants who serve in the military, would not be among the amendments discussed in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (an annual defense bill that sets the policies within the Pentagon). It was something that Rep. Cantor along with other Republicans in the House would not budge on. They didn’t even want the amendment discussed on the House floor. So to anyone who follows politics, the question is simple.
For a party that needs (and are actively courting) minority supporters, why on Earth do Republicans continually block immigration legislation?
So now let us turn to the one place that could answer this very conundrum (and really all of life’s conundrums). The Simpsons!
Immigration reform is something Republicans say they care about. But in the eyes of Republicans, not all immigrants are the same. To understand this better, let’s look at two characters from The Simpsons. Everyone’s favorite Kwik-E-Mart attendant, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, and everyone’s favorite Scotsman, Groundskeeper Willie.
Apu originally came to Springfield as a grad student hoping to get his Ph.D. in computer science. While getting his Ph.D., Apu was working at the the Kwik-E-Mart part-time to pay off his student loans. Long story short, even though Apu received his Ph.D., he decided to stay and now runs as well as owns the Kwik-E-Mart. Apu has carved out a pretty good life for himself. Three cheers for the American Dream!
Willie on the other hand hasn’t been as lucky. Originally hailing from Scotland, how and why Willie came to Springfield is a bit fuzzy. All that we are certain about Willie is that he is currently a janitor at Springfield Elementary while at the same time taking odd jobs on weekends and lives in a shack at the back of the school. Willie has had a hard life thus far.
While both men are in fact immigrants, occupationally speaking, their statuses in life couldn’t be any more different. Economists would say that Willie (low-skilled immigrant) and Apu (high-skilled immigrant) represent two very different socio-economic places in American society.
Republicans tend to agree.
In this June 2013 Gallop Poll on immigration reform, Republicans have very different ideas on how to institute immigration reform depending on if you’re talking about high-skilled workers (Apu) and lower-skilled workers (Wille). Of those surveyed, 74% of Republicans said they would allow high-skilled workers (engineers and scientists) from other countries to earn graduate degrees from the US and allow them to work in the US after their schooling. While when the same group was asked if they would vary the number of lower-skilled immigrants depending on the economy (adding more lower-skilled workers if the economy was doing well) only 51% of Republicans said they would support that measure. What makes Republicans then prefer high-skilled immigrants over lower-skilled immigrants?
Well, two reasons.
The first is that while Republicans do see the economic benefit of hiring low-skilled workers, yet they also see the potential downsides. In a Pew Research study in 2013, 70% of Republicans surveyed agreed that it’s better for the economy that undocumented immigrants become legal workers. However they also believed by doing so: encourages them to come illegally (77%), would reward illegal behavior (68%), and would take jobs away from citizens (66%). To be fair, some of these downsides are present with high-skilled immigrants as well, but Republicans also believe that there is a bigger upside to high-skilled immigrants (more money into the economy, less likely to be a drain on governmental resources, ect.).
The second reason, higher-skilled workers tend to get paid less and are more likely to work in worse working conditions. To go back to The Simpsons, there’s a joke in the episode titled “The Last Temptation of Homer” in which Mr. Burns – the owner of the Springfield nuclear power plant – hires an immigrant named Zutroy as Danger Emissions Supervisor for the plant. Burns tells Zutroy that for a hard day’s work, he’ll get one shiny penny. While this is a total caricature of the matter, the idea isn’t too far from the truth.
Businesses have shown to support the opening of doors to high-skilled immigrants, due to the fact they work for less pay. An example of this can be seen in the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act in 2012. While the bill would have increased more employment-based green cards to foreigners (which pro-business groups approved), it would also give greater authority to investigate working conditions and visa-fraud or abuse. Many pro-business lobbyists and Republicans ended up killing the bill – even though it would allow an increase in skilled-immigrants – due to the bigger oversight measure.
This would explain the perceived flip-flopping many Republicans have when it comes to immigration reform. Republicans have bought into high-skill immigrants strengthening the economy, yet they are still very weary of letting low-skill immigrants in.
So don’t worry Apu, Republicans are on your side. Even though you didn’t end up using that Ph.D. in computer science, you now run the Kwik-E-Mart and in their eyes you’re a job creator! As a highly-skilled immigrant, Apu represents what Republicans want in immigration reform. As for Groundskeeper Willie, not so much. To the GOP, Willie is more trouble than anything else due to him being a lower-skilled immigrant. So hang in there buddy, hang in there…