Barack Obama, as candidate in 2007-2008 and repeatedly as president, has vowed to champion Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) that would amount to amnesty for the 11 million undocumented foreign nationals said to be in the United States.
The president, having failed to keep his CIR promise to Hispanic leaders during his first term, now places the blame on Republicans. Obama, claiming a re-election “mandate” and counting on news media support, is using campaign-style rhetoric to achieve CIR, which could be a serious miscalculation, both operational and financial.
A pathway to citizenship or amnesty is a major component of CIR legislation, but according to Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano in immigration testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 13, 2013, “The devil is in the details.”
The president, many U.S. senators and representatives, Hispanic advocates, and undocumented aliens seek to replace current immigration laws with social justice and global appeasement reform. Immigration advocates prefer that enforcement details not be discussed for fear it will limit the scope of the legislation.
Currently an applicant seeking to be naturalized as a U.S. citizen is required by federal law to speak, read, and write the English language. In practice, the English language requirement for citizenship applicants is being ignored, as are most U.S. citizenship requirements.
Comprehensive immigration with a “pathway to citizenship”, as designated by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address, sounds similar to the ones that immigrant advocates have long been touting. They are, as follows:
- Secure the borders.
- Require employers to stop hiring undocumented workers.
- Require undocumented aliens to register and undergo national security and criminal background checks.
- Require undocumented aliens to pay back taxes and penalties.
- Require undocumented aliens to learn English.
- Require undocumented aliens to go to the back of the line of those foreign nationals who have followed the rules in applying for visas, legal permanent residency, and U.S. citizenship.
When the current federal immigration law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), was passed in 1986, an estimated 2 million persons became U.S. citizens. In addition to border security and employer sanctions for employers who hire undocumented workers, IRCA set the following requirements for undocumented aliens applying for amnesty:
- No felony convictions and no more than two misdemeanor convictions.
- U.S. residency for a set number of years.
- An understanding of English and knowledge of American history and government.
- Restricted eligibility for federal welfare benefits.
DHS Secretary Napolitano testified that border security as required by IRCA has failed, and most agree that other IRCA requirements also have failed, except for the amnesty provision. IRCA, though well-intentioned, opened the floodgates of illegal immigration.
The Department of Homeland Security replaced several federal agencies, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which had become the stepchild of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The INS, mandated to monitor and enforce the IRCA requirements, failed miserably. Its successor the DHS also is failing, and DHS failures have been largely politically motivated.
Obama’s proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform will have problems similar to those experienced by IRCA. For instance, IRCA employer sanctions failed because there was no clear will of Congress to ensure enforcement; and the same will be true today.
Required background checks will be difficult, as foreign countries will either not cooperate or will delay cooperation. U.S. background and criminal checks will be difficult, as many illegal aliens use several names and combinations of names.
Determining what back taxes an undocumented alien owes will be near impossible, as many are paid in cash, and their length of residency in the United States is uncertain. Low-waged applicants will not be able to pay a penalty or back taxes.
Since a majority of undocumented aliens are low-skilled and under-educated, how will they have time and money to learn English, American history, and government? Who will pay for their courses?
Determination of when the border actually is secure may be the most difficult requirement, as the Obama administration reports that the southern border has never been so secure, while battered border-state residents testify that it is far from secure.
The U.S. government has a sorry track record when dealing with immigrants, let alone the total number of undocumented persons residing in the United States today, whose actual numbers could exceed 20 million men, women, and children.
By whom will Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation be administered, and how many billions of taxpayer dollars will the legislation cost to administer? DHS Secretary Napolitano has said, “The devil is in the details,” and so shall be the cost.
James H. Walsh was associate general counsel with the U.S. Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1983 to 1994. Read more reports from James Walsh — Click Here Now.
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