Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner, R-Ohio, released a set of GOP immigration principles on Jan. 30, 2014. Republicans plan to flesh out these principles as 2014 immigration reform legislation.
The GOP principles suggest a step-by-step legislative approach to sorely needed immigration reform, an approach that sharply contrasts with the “comprehensive” legislation favored by the Democrats. In contrast, the U.S. House of Representatives will now pursue immigration reform by addressing the following principles in the following order:
Border Security and Enforcement. The first GOP principle is mandatory in drafting workable immigration legislation. A border security and enforcement bill must prevent presidential or bureaucratic tampering that perverts congressional intent.
There must be ironclad provisions for congressional oversight, for as the nation has witnessed, it is possible for the Executive Branch to operate through political appointees to circumvent the will and intent of federal legislation. Republicans fear that defacto-president Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., will block border security.
Entry-Exit Visa Tracking System. The second GOP principle is necessary but only after U.S. borders are secure and enforced. Only then can Congress address a workable U.S. Entry-Exit Visa Tracking System, especially since 40 percent of all illegal aliens are visa overstays. The GOP document reminds the nation that “a fully functioning Entry-Exist system has been mandated by eight separate statutes over the last 17 years.”
In the 1980s, the then Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) had an entry-exist tracking system that never reached full potential for various reasons, not the least of which was political.
Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement. The third GOPprinciple is an update of the employer sanctions section of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. IRCA sanctions did not work, because the legal proof standards were not clear and defined, and political will for enforcement was lacking. The nation needs a modern guest-worker program for legal skilled and unskilled laborers forthwith.
Reforms to the Legal Immigration System. The fourth GOP Principle is necessary to expedite the applications of persons of all ages currently applying for U.S. visas. If legalization is the congressional path, then those who wish to apply for legalization should be fully investigated. For those who qualify, a time-limited visa should be granted, subject to renewal and investigative updates.
Youth. The fifth GOP principle refers to the DREAMER policy of the Obama administration, which is far from a harmless policy. National security concerns require that this principle will have tightly drawn legislative language. Many illegal “youth” up to 30 years of age knowingly and purposefully enter and re-enter the United States illegally.
Adult Immigrants Living Outside the Rule of Law. The sixth GOP principle contends that qualifications for legalization must correspond to reformed qualifications for legal immigration. Among the Islamic bombers convicted in recent years, many were legal immigrants who took an oath of allegiance to the United States and then purposely violated said oath.
The initial reaction to Boehner’s immigration principles by President Obama and immigrant advocate groups was surprisingly positive. Early the next day, the president, during a CNN interview, suggested that he was open to a middle ground on immigration reform, even if a GOP compromise does not include “a pathway to citizenship.”
Obama opined that he would be interested in an immediate GOP proposal that included, “folks not being deported . . .” The Obama administration is said to have deported some 2 million illegal aliens. Among those, the number re-entering the United States illegally is substantial.
Later that day, however, Obama “sort of refigured” his surprisingly positive statement and stressed that he wanted “smart immigration reform,” even if he had to do it without Congress. The White House was not the only critic of the GOP principles.
There was also push-back from Republican conservatives. Pat Buchanan opined that Boehner would lose his speakership, if he succeeds with an immigration bill — that it could be the speaker’s “last hurrah.” It isn’t clear whether Buchanan was speaking of comprehensive immigration reform or of the incremental reforms suggested by Speaker Boehner.
Incremental immigration reform would reduce the public’s fear of another legislative disaster entailing massive fiscal damage. Incremental immigration legislation would restrict the president’s ability to make arbitrary and capricious changes to U.S. immigration laws.
The president and immigration advocates realize that they must compromise to get congressional immigration reform. U.S. citizens are concerned about border security. They are concerned about the threats represented by terrorist migration, as evidence mounts that al-Qaida and its affiliates are alive and well and on the move.
Polls show that the president has lost the trust of a majority of Americans. Even his support among blacks is diminishing. Previous supporters in Chicago appear on news shows and the Internet claiming that President Obama has done nothing for black people and that Chicago is the classic example of Obama’s failures. It is time for Republicans to listen to the people and stay principled.
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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