In recent months, four liberal Democrat U.S. senators and four conservative Republican U.S. senators (three of the latter from heavily Hispanic-populated states) have coalesced behind immigration reform.
Making up this gang of eight are Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Dick Durbin D-Ill., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
On Jan. 28 this Senate gang of eight held a “get real on immigration” press conference, laying out broad concepts. On the following day, President Barack Obama held his own press conference, expounding a globalist position that bounds far left of the comparatively moderate Senate proposal.
The Senate gang of eight proposes the following:
- A path to citizenship for illegal aliens presently in the country, but only after the federal government has secured the southern border and improved tracking of visa holders.
- Green cards that offer legal residency to immigrants with advanced degrees in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
- A tougher employer verification system to assist companies in hiring only “legalizing” immigrants.
- Visas for low-skilled foreign workers and incentives for companies that hire these visa-holding, “legalizing” immigrants.
- Establishment of a guest farmhand program for seasonal agriworkers.
In contrast to the president who offered up platitudes, the Senate gang of eight has begun a reasoned, substantive conversation to correct this embarrassing national security problem.
Some of their ideas tweak existing programs (E-Verify for employment checks and employer sanctions against those who hire illegal aliens).
Others are updates of former programs, such as the “Bracero program” (1943-1964) that permitted Mexican farm-laborers to work seasonally in the United States.
Procedurally, congressional hearings and regular order must be the basis for any new, bicameral immigration bill. Otherwise the attempt will suffer the same ignominious fate that Obamacare now faces. Members of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House who support proper procedure would do well to advocate piecemeal immigration reform legislation.
The devil, however, is in the details. If an immigration bill passes bicamerally as one, huge comprehensive piece of legislation, it promises to be as bewildering as Obamacare is now.
Specifically, citizen-voters long before an immigration reform bill is drafted should ask their congressman and senator the following questions:
- Who decides when the border “is secure” and by what measure?
- Will fingerprinting by state police and photo ID be necessary?
- Will mandatory health examinations be required of “legalizing” alien applicants, as they currently are of “naturalizing” applicants? What healthcare professionals qualify to administer these public health exams?
- Will a driving under the influence (DUI) arrest prevent an immigrant from the new “legalizing” status? What about domestic violence convictions?
- How will the time that a “legalizing” alien has been in the United States be verified?
- How much time will “legalizing” aliens have to gather their evidence and apply for the new “legalizing” alien status process?
- How will the federal government tally back taxes owed by “legalizing” aliens to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state of residence, and how will they be paid?
- How will “legalizing” aliens pay into social welfare trust funds, and will they be able to draw from entitlement programs? At what point will they have a vested right to file for benefits?
- While family unity is a desirable goal for “legalizing” aliens, is “family” only blood relatives (parents, cousins), or does it include spouses and fiancées?
- What colleges and universities will qualify to host “legalizing” alien students? Should preference be given to certain academic specialties such as STEM courses? Should achievement thresholds be set, such as graduation in the top percentage of the class?
- How will visa over-stays be handled?
- What agricultural occupations will qualify for agriworker (seasonal) programs and what will constitute guest-worker benefits and obligations? Will seasonal workers qualify for Obamacare?
- How will the national-origin diversity quotas set out in the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) be affected? Will there be a diversity formula for “legalizing” alien students?
- What becomes of the current employer sanctions set out in the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)? Will IRCA remain the immigration law of the land?
- What impact will this proposed immigration reform bill have on existing U.S. asylum and refugee programs?
- At what point will “legalizing” aliens take priority, if any, over current applicants for naturalization? Will existing legal naturalization applicants be granted accelerated U.S. citizenship?
- What impact will “legalizing” aliens have on the rate of unemployed U.S. citizens, in an already struggling job market?
- What will be the cost of the legislation?
The liberal establishment likely will attack any secure-border initiatives. In addition, liberals are likely to challenge background and mental health checks as well as any curtailment of health, social, and welfare benefits.
Look for liberals to protest proper parliamentary procedure in the U.S. Congress, as they see open hearings and regular order as obstructionist.
The comprehensive immigration reform touted by the president can only result in a massive Obamacare-like bill that will be incomprehensible.
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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