Obamacare could blow up immigration reform
On Monday, a bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators were all smiles as they unveiled a blueprint for immigration reform. Commentators have been noting that prospects for comprehensive reform are better now than they were when President Bush made several failed attempts in his second term. But one reality has changed that could make things a lot more complicated for the reformers: the passage of Obamacare.
Immigration has long been a divisive issue, not just for the nation as a whole but within the Republican Party and the conservative movement. There's always been a more libertarian strain of thinking that has favored a less restrictive immigration system. These advocates of smaller government have been forced to wrestle with the challenge of how to maintain a more open immigration system given the existence of a generous welfare state.
Milton Friedman, the legendary libertarian economist, famously acknowledged this reality. Ironically, Friedman argued that immigration from Mexico was a good thing -- but only if it was illegal. As he explained, "As long as it's illegal, the people who come in don't qualify for welfare, they don't qualify for Social Security, they don't qualify for all the other myriad of benefits that we pour out from our left pocket to our right pocket."
Confronting this issue prior to 2010, libertarian-minded folks had a ready response -- immigrants come to this country to work, not collect welfare, and most of them are going to be too young to qualify for old-age benefits anyway.
But after the March 2010 passage of Obamacare, the issue isn't quite so simple. Obamacare isn't an entitlement aimed at benefitting those who don't work -- its target beneficiaries are the working poor. Through an expanded Medicaid program and new subsidized insurance exchanges, the law will provide benefits to those earning up to four times the federal poverty level. ...