Eight U.S. senators have joined forces to propose an immigration bill that signals the start of immigration reform, but only the start.
The bill contains provisions that are unacceptable to liberals, conservatives, independents, small and large businesses, unions, and a cross-section of U.S. citizens.
The 844-page bill was released in the wee hours of Wednesday, April 17, hardly an auspicious unveiling of a major piece of legislation.
Making up this Gang of Eight are Chuck Schumer, D-NY; 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. Four of the members are liberal Democrats, and four are conservative Republicans — three of the latter from states with large Hispanic populations.
Although these senators have coalesced behind an outline on immigration reform that promises to be more acceptable to U.S. citizen-voters than were earlier legislative attempts, some of their proposals are causing angst:
- Registered Provisional Immigration Status. The proposed path to citizenship for those illegal aliens presently in the country would begin with each illegal-alien applicant receiving a “registered provisional immigration status” designation.
- Financial and Personal Assistance. Proposed assistance to illegal-alien applicants is estimated to cost $50 million. In line with congressional estimates, actual costs would run much higher. The legislation would fund immigrant advocates and Community Organizer groups, such as La Raza and Casa de Maryland, for five years to help illegal-alien applicants obtain green cards and welfare benefits.
- Border Security. The proposed bill would require the federal government to first secure the South and West borders. The bill states that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would have five years to secure the borders. Should the DHS fail to do so, then the bill would trigger the creation of a “commission” to take over the task of securing the border. Again, as with other congressional legislation, the details on implementing the bill would be left to federal bureaucrats and political appointees. If past is prologue, then a review of the Immigration Control and Reform Act of 1986 (IRCA) is in order. Although IRCA failed to secure the borders, as required, amnesty was granted to 2.7 million illegal aliens. IRCA triggered a tidal wave of illegal immigration.
- STEM LPRs. The proposed bill contains a provision for “green cards” that offer legal permanent residency (LPR) to immigrants with advanced degrees in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The STEM proposal appears to be viable, as does a provision offering a new “W” visa to non-agricultural, low-skilled workers. Visas for agricultural workers also need clarification. A good starting point might be the “Bracero program” (1942-1964) that permitted Mexican farm-laborers to work seasonally in the United States.
- Social/Welfare Benefits. Questions are sure to arise regarding the social/welfare benefits offered to illegal-alien applicants. One provision would give applicants free cell phones. U.S. taxpayers are likely to recoil at this giveaway, as Internet commentators already are doing.
- Employer Verification System. The bill proposes a tougher employer verification system to assure that companies hire only legal or “legalizing” immigrants and incentives for companies that hire them. Provisions would be made for more entry-level workers. IRCA has failed to enforce employer sanctions, just as the federal government will fail to enforce E-Verify provisions.
- Family Unity. The number of people covered by the Gang-of-Eight bill would be three to six times the alleged 11 million illegal aliens currently in the United States, because the bill has a family-unity provision that allows “legalizing” immigrants to bring in family members.
Among the flaws in the proposed Gang-of-Eight legislation is its failure to require health examinations of illegal immigrants, even though health exams are required of all legal immigrants to protect the public health.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers complain that the bill’s provision prohibiting the use of “racial profiling” is too restrictive and would prevent law enforcement.
Another flaw is the setting of December 31, 2011, as the arbitrary cutoff date for illegal aliens to have been in the United States. Illegal aliens, however, can easily obtain forged predated documents. Ask any U.S. Border Patrol agent about the increase in border crossers — it is the lure of “legalization.”
Members of the Obama administration repeat that “The border is more secure than it has ever been.” Why then did a recent New York Times article report that the border is not secure and that the struggle to secure it continues? And why did a U.S. Border Patrol official recently testify that border apprehensions were up 13 percent in fiscal 2013 from 2012?
The Gang-of-Eight proposal is a start, but a shaky one. Months if not years of congressional hearings are needed to produce effective immigration legislation. On April 17, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a proponent of Obamacare, announced that implementation of that law is heading for a “huge train wreck.”
The Gang-of-Eight immigration reform bill, if enacted as is, also would be heading for a train wreck, with U.S. taxpayers the casualties.
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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