Straw Men and Immigration

New York State just passed its 2022 budget, which outdoes itself in drowning favored constituencies in money. The state has created an “Excluded Workers Fund” to provide $2.1 billion dollars in retroactive unemployment benefits for illegal aliens who were unable to get federal relief in last year’s federal aid package. 

The original proposal for the Excluded Workers Fund was for a $3.5 billion fund that would also give payment to recently-released prison convicts, though no one was able to explain why people in prison ought to qualify for a program supposed to help workers who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Sponsors of the legislation also wanted to include street vendors and prostitutes as beneficiaries. 

In any case, advocates are angry that the Fund as it has been established requires applicants to demonstrate a minimal level of proof that they qualify. They have to prove that they lived in New York State during the pandemic; that they were employed; and that their income was below a certain level. This certification will allow them as members of “Tier 1” to collect around $15,000 from the Fund. People who can’t prove that they lost employment due to COVID will be classified as “Tier 2,” and will only be eligible to get about $3,200. 

This system of certification is demeaning, according to the New York Immigration Coalition, a taxpayer-funded non-profit organization that engages in protests and agitation in support of illegal alien interests. Murad Awawdeh commented, “Our community tends to be defrauded; we’re not committing the fraud.” 

This is a common sentiment among advocates on the Left. For example, in the debate over ballot access, we frequently hear that there is no reason to enact stricter ID requirements for voting because there have only ever been a handful of prosecutions for voter fraud. Or, as the Brennan Center for Justice explains, it is more likely that an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.” 

This is a straw man argument. The case for stronger voter ID laws isn’t that people are showing up to vote as another individual, but that people who aren’t legally entitled to vote have registered to do so, and there is no effective check on this practice. Voter ID, which many other countries require, would help ensure that the principle of “One man, one vote”—which the Left professes to cherish—remains intact. 

Open-border skeptics are frequently chastised for questioning the validity of asylum claims by people who seem to be economic migrants. Asylees are afforded extensive protections and benefits that are denied to regular applicants, and thus asylum claims are open to abuse. Reports from the southern border have for years indicated that migrants are coached to repeat that they have a “credible fear” of harm resulting from persecution in their home countries—the magic words that can ensure their safe passage into America.  

Over the last decade there has been a 17-fold increase in asylum claims, indicating that the word has spread about the formula for entry. But advocates insist that fraud concerns are unfounded, and that the humanitarian crisis in Central America is driving the increase.  

Of course, there’s no reason why both things can’t be true: life may be more unpleasant than usual in Central America, and people wanting to leave there may be exploiting a key loophole in U.S. law. 

In all instances of denial that fraud could ever play a part in application for a benefit, we are basically asked to accept the idea that poor or desperate people would never lie, or if they do, it’s because they really need whatever they are applying for. So what’s the difference? Better that 100 fraudsters collect money illegally than one legitimate applicant go without. This is the logic of the functionaries of the welfare state, who ultimately would like to see everyone on their rolls. 

Seth Barron (@SethBarronNYC) is managing editor of The American Mind.