The immigration reform bill being proposed by the U.S. Senate’s Gang of Eight contains legislative excesses that could create an immigration-welfare complex.
If past is prologue, one need only consider the failures of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). Each bill required extensive hearings and legislative give-and-take before final votes. Still on the books today, INA and IRCA are examples of flawed legislation that provide cautionary tales for the U.S. Senate in its deliberations.
Flawed immigration legislation contributed to the following statistics: The Pew Research Center reports that the poverty rate of immigrants is higher than that of the native born. The Social Security Administration reports that Social Security disability claims have reached 10.9 million, the largest ever.
In additon, the convicted Muslim known as the Times Square Terrorist said he lied when swearing allegiance to the United States to gain U.S. citizenship. New York City Council members want non-citizens to vote; and in Denver, Colorado, illegal aliens have filed a discrimination lawsuit because Community College signs are printed only in English.
In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) was part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. By reducing immigrant flows from Northern Europe and increasing flows from the Third World, supporters of the law argued that it would correct past discrimination. The INA changed U.S. culture, education, heritage, and welfare entitlement.
Regarding the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), those of us present during its gestation and passage know that the introduced social and welfare benefits for illegal aliens continue today. Employer sanctions go unfulfilled, and the border is far from secure.
To pass IRCA, Democrats promised border security. The word “Control” in the law’s title referred to “control of the border,” which two decades later has yet to happen. Thus, more than 20 million illegal aliens now reside in the United States. IRCA defined border security to include not only land and sea borders but also visa overstays that today make up an estimated 40 percent of the illegal-alien population.
One Congress after another has amended the immigration laws, increasing the chaos. Democrat and Republican administrations have given lip-service to border enforcement.
After President Ronald Reagan signed IRCA, illegal border crossings increased as did visa overstays. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) tracked foreign entries with INS Form I-94 to record non-immigrant arrivals and departures. Today all foreign persons entering the country legally must file I-94 forms and present a copy upon departure. Many visa entrants choose not to leave — without consequence.
Between 1986 and 1990, the estimated 2.5 million illegal aliens granted amnesty by IRCA were able to bring in family members under the INA “family unity” concept. This provision increased welfare and educational costs billed to U.S. taxpayers. In 2006, National Public Radio stated that the INA “family unity” provision had changed America demographically.
The Senate’s proposed immigration reform includes “legalization” effective immediately upon signing of the bill; thus all illegal aliens in the country will become “legal.” Third-World immigrants, including those with little formal education, tend to be street smart and information savvy, as demonstrated by the wave of illegal aliens who arrived following passage of IRCA.
Just as Reagan amnesty became a magnet for illegal aliens, so may the Senate bill. The Border Patrol chief recently testified that apprehensions of illegal border crossers are up 13 percent in 2013.
The leftist Center of American Progress recently stated that the Senate bill will help “legalize” 32.5 million immigrants over the next decade. The bill proposes that “legalized” immigrants will not be able to bring in family members, but “family unity” could be introduced later as a “technical adjustment.” If parts of immigration reform conflict with IRA or IRCA, the new law would take precedence.
Missing from immigration legislation over the past 50 years is a requirement that illegal aliens granted amnesty/legalization must pass health examinations required of legal immigrants. The proposed Senate bill has no such requirement.
The IRCA Employee Verification section (Employer Sanctions) requires U.S. employers to verify that a prospective employee is a U.S. citizen or a foreigner in legal status. The federal government, however, has made little effort to enforce employer sanctions.
Immigration reform needs to include border security (not just a promise), employer sanctions (not just a lick and a promise), and health examinations (absent in IRA, IRCA, and the Senate proposal). Will taxpayers be picking up the tab for the healthcare of indigent immigrants?
Will the Obama administration, which contends that members of the global community have a right to enter the United States, enforce border security and employer sanctions? Will taxpayers have to fund an immigration-welfare complex? Will the problems that plague INA and IRCA cast a shadow over the 2013 immigration legislation? As Yogi Berra said, “Déjà vu, all over again.”
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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