Immigration Reform: What Will the New Year Bring?

Monday, 23 Nov 2009 10:40 AM

By James Walsh

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Growing weary of healthcare reform legislation and all those amendments? Be prepared for more, as Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sets the 2,000-page Senate version of Obamacare for debate after Thanksgiving. Close on the heels of healthcare, look for global warming legislation and comprehensive immigration reform.

The House of Representatives has already passed a “cap and-trade” emissions bill that would reduce global warming by taxing consumer use of energy.

Sen. Reid has chosen Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to manage the Senate version, already in draft form as the “Stronger Economy, Stronger Borders Act of 2009.”

By all indications, Reid’s brainchild immigration bill will borrow heavily from the infamous Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 also known as the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. Reid’s draft is said to have three major provisions that would provide more effective border and employment enforcement, prevent illegal immigration, and “reform and rationalize” avenues for legal immigration.

Worthy goals all, but they sound suspiciously similar to troublesome old IRCA. The actual details await release of the Reid immigration bill to the Senate and to the public.

Now why was IRCA so irksome? Sponsored and crafted by Sen. Alan K. Simpson, R-Wyo., and Rep. Romano L. Mazzoli, D-Ken., IRCA was heavily influenced by the Commission on Immigration Reform, a non-partisan commission chaired by the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, University of Notre Dame president. Note that IRCA took five years to make its way through the Senate, the House, the Senate-House Conference, and onto the desk of President Ronald Reagan.

IRCA, which became law in 1986, contained an amnesty provision that granted rights of citizenship to illegal aliens who had been residing in the United States continuously prior to Jan. 1, 1982. The Act made it unlawful to hire or recruit illegal aliens for employment (employer sanctions), although a provision provided a pathway to legalization for certain seasonal agricultural workers. Border control with high-tech surveillance and additional Border Patrol agents were presented as the keystone of the act.

Great expectations for border control, employer sanctions, and legalization of seasonal agricultural workers provided the rationale for granting amnesty to an estimated 2.7 million illegal aliens. Many illegal aliens had their reasons for not filling out the amnesty paperwork, and the enforcement provisions were ignored.

In practice, border control was lax, and during the past two decades, an estimated 1.1 million illegal border crossings occurred each year. The estimate of 1.1 million illegal aliens entering the United States annually is a conservative number, considering that a million aliens were apprehended per year over the same period.

Employer sanctions were a failure. The law was unworkable from the enforcement perspective and as a legal reality. In 2005, Doris Meissner, Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in the Clinton administration, opined that the amnesty deal based upon employer sanctions, border enforcement, and legalization disintegrated in practice. She was correct in noting that not only did IRCA fail, it resulted in a badly broken immigration system in the United States. Commissioner Meissner observed that solutions being considered by Congress in 2005 were fundamentally those debated in the 1980s. These failed solutions are now being repackaged as the core provisions of Obama immigration reform.

In 2007, the Bush administration supported immigration reform, acknowledging that IRCA was a failure in terms of enforcement and punishment of lawbreakers but carefully avoiding mention of the amnesty failure.

A former Reagan administration official finally admitted that amnesty did not solve the problem of illegal immigration and that document fraud (falsified papers showing a person’s residency in the United States) was extensive. The Reagan administration had no way of knowing how many amnesty applicants to expect, because INS had no idea of the actual number of illegal aliens in the country. The lack of an accurate count of illegal aliens was a factor in the failure of IRCA and the Reagan amnesty.

IRCA, in turn, was based on the Immigration and Naturalization Services Act of 1965 (INSA), known as the Hart-Celler bill. The young Sen. Teddy Kennedy was floor manager for INSA and assured the nation that the bill would not cause cities to be flooded with a million immigrants annually and “the ethnic mix of the country will not be upset . . . It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs.” INSA also provided for family unity, which opened the floodgates for relatives to join new immigrants.

Over the decades, Kennedy continued to champion lax citizenship requirements and an open-border policy. In 1985, he again assured the American people, that the Reagan amnesty would not need to be re-enacted by future sessions of Congress and that it would have no deleterious effects on jobs or demographics.

IRCA in 1985 re-enforced the immigration rights granted to Mexico and other Third-World countries by INSA in 1965. As a result, the United States became the port of call for unskilled and uneducated populations. INSA/ IRCA promised, but failed, to release the pressures built up by the poverty, lack of education, and unemployment that were edging Mexico toward anarchy. Add to these concerns the ever-increasing criminal cartels and street gangs that move at will across porous U.S. borders to bring drugs, violence, and death to the United States.

Now another 20 years have passed, and congressional efforts for “comprehensive immigration reform” based on amnesty for illegal aliens here now or on their way use the same failed reasoning of INSA/IRCA. The Democrat immigration reform, now in the works, promises to continue legislative attempts to Third-World-ize the mighty United States of America.

And yet immigration is not the problem. It never has been.

Illegal entry and visa overstays and the lack of political will to enforce U.S. immigration laws are the problem. The majority of U.S. citizens are against amnesty, but will the Democrat-controlled Congress listen, or will its members follow House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid in the failed footsteps of Hart-Celler and Simpson-Mazzoli?

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