Guest blog by AILA Board member Jerome Grzeca, Grzeca Law Group, S.C.

In just 4 months since its original posting, over 6 million people have tuned in to You Tube to see actor Bob Basso take on the role of Founding Father Thomas Paine in the video titled, “We the People Stimulus Package.” Viewers are undoubtedly attracted to Basso’s dramatic flair and plain-spoken approach toward issues including government spending, taxation, international affairs and immigration. While some may appreciate the “entertainment value” Basso provides, several of his satirical remarks made as fact are completely fictional. Furthermore, his choice to present as Mr. Paine, an immigrant, is dumbfounding.

Basso would have his viewers believe that Paine was a proponent of big government, anti-immigration laws and constraining policies. In fact, Paine would have supported just the opposite. By all accounts, he was a radical; a man whose ideals were deeply entrenched in the belief that each person, regardless of origin or religious faction should be free. He once said, “The world is my country, all mankind my brethren, and to do good is my religion.” Does this echo that of Basso’s xenophobic rant?

Paine, an immigrant, wrote the three top-selling literary works of the eighteenth century, inspiring the American Revolution, issuing a battle cry for individual rights and challenging the corrupt power of government. In his pamphlet “Rights of Man, Part II,” Paine affirmed his libertarian principles stating, “Great part of order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government. It has its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished.” These are not the words of a man who would call for the mandatory implementation of E-Verify, a costly, burdensome and invasive governmental system that during its testing phase negatively impacted the livelihoods of many American citizens who were incorrectly identified as illegal immigrants.

Perhaps instead of sending a tea bag to his local government official, Basso should sit down to a warm cup and do some real research on the issues surrounding immigration. He would find that many of his lecture points are completely unsubstantiated.

BASSO: “[The government] hands $30 billion of a bankrupted treasury to illegal alien welfare, rewarding lawbreakers for making a mockery of your laws.”
FACT: To the contrary, undocumented immigrants are not eligible to receive any “welfare” benefits and even legal immigrants are severely restricted in the benefits they can receive.

BASSO: “[The government] allows 20 million illegal aliens to reap the benefits of a [social security] retirement program that legal citizens paid into all their lives.”
FACT: The estimated 11.6 million unauthorized workers are not, and have never been, eligible to claim social security benefits. On the contrary, according to a 2005 Social Security Administration (SSA) report, undocumented immigrants paid $520 billion into the Social Security system under names or social security numbers that don’t match SSA records, and will likely never be able to recoup that money.

BASSO: “[The government] should make English the united language of America – giving every legal immigrant a chance to succeed.”
FACT: English is already the united language of America, without government intervention. Furthermore, along with showing a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government, applicants for U.S. citizenship are required to display an ability to read, write and speak English.

BASSO: “No tax payer money should be given to illegal aliens – do not reward lawbreakers.”
FACT: The immigrant community is not a drain on the U.S. economy but, in fact, proves to be a net benefit. Research reported by both the CATO Institute and the President’s Council of Economic Advisors reveals that the average immigrant pays a net 80,000 dollars more in taxes than they collect in government services. For immigrants with college degrees the net fiscal return is $198,000.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, Basso states that Americans “have become nothing more than cowering spectators watching the nation their grandparents built – the richest, most powerful, most self-sufficient republic in history – with the highest standing any nation ever achieved – now in the greatest decline in history.” This great nation, the one our immigrant grandparents worked so hard to build, would not be what it was without the huddled masses who immigrated to the United States. The settling of America began with the belief that people – regardless of ethnicity – could live together and govern themselves by making laws for the common good. From time-to-time, this important part of America’s history will be forgotten, and it will take more than an amateur video to bring fact to light. The fact is that America is different – we are the “Nation of Immigrants” and should never forget it.