Saturday, May 19, 2007

Senate Immigration Bill

Listening to the radio last week about the Senate's "agreement" just riled me to no end.  The fact that a committee made this agreement in secret harks back to the age of backroom deals that smacks of illicit activities.  Some of the details that have come out about the compromised (!) bill are somewhat expected.  From

The key breakthrough came when negotiators struck a bargain on a so-called "point system" that prioritizes immigrants' education and skill level over family connections in deciding how to award green cards.

The immigration issue also divides both parties in the House, which isn't expected to act unless the Senate passes a bill first.

The proposed agreement would allow illegal immigrants to come forward and obtain a "Z visa" and — after paying fees and a $5,000 fine — ultimately get on track for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. Heads of household would have to return to their home countries first.

They could come forward right away to claim a probationary card that would let them live and work legally in the U.S., but could not begin the path to permanent residency or citizenship until border security improvements and the high-tech worker identification program were completed.

A new temporary guest worker program would also have to wait until those so-called "triggers" had been activated.

Those workers would have to return home after work stints of two years, with little opportunity to gain permanent legal status or ever become U.S. citizens. They could renew their guest worker visas twice, but would be required to leave for a year in between each time.

Democrats had pressed instead for guest workers to be permitted to stay and work indefinitely in the U.S.

In perhaps the most hotly debated change, the proposed plan would shift from an immigration system primarily weighted toward family ties toward one with preferences for people with advanced degrees and sophisticated skills. Republicans have long sought such revisions, which they say are needed to end "chain migration" that harms the economy, while some Democrats and liberal groups say it's an unfair system that rips families apart.

Family connections alone would no longer be enough to qualify for a green card — except for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens.

New limits would apply to U.S. citizens seeking to bring foreign-born parents into the country.

But what is really interesting are the comments that various politicians have made.  Let's view & comment on a few:

"It is not amnesty. This will restore the rule of law." - Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

Excuse me, Senator Specter, but we are a nation of laws the last time I checked.  What needs restoring is the enforcement of the current laws, not a compromise that circumvents those same laws.

"I have serious concerns about some aspects of this proposal, including the structure of the temporary worker program and undue limitations on family immigration." - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

I too have serious concerns about this proposal, Senator Reid, but not the ones that you have.  I do not like giving felony-level offenders (of which I understand illegal immigration is) a pass with a slap on the wrist, a fine, and permission to do it again. To whit -

"What part of illegal does the Senate not understand? Any plan that rewards illegal behavior is amnesty," said Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus.

Representative Bilbray hit the nail on the head.  Unfortunately, there just isn't enough common sense or thought given to the long-term actions that this Bill would inflict upon the country.

Proponents of the Bill point to Ronald Reagan's amnesty program from 1986 as precedent for this updated and improved Bill.  This is one of the few times that I would say that Reagan was wrong.  In excerpts from a New York Times Op-Ed piece published on May 24, 2006, Ed Meese had this to say:

In the mid-80's, many members of Congress — pushed by the Democratic majority in the House and the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy — advocated amnesty for long-settled illegal immigrants. President Reagan considered it reasonable to adjust the status of what was then a relatively small population, and I supported his decision.

In exchange for allowing aliens to stay, he decided, border security and enforcement of immigration laws would be greatly strengthened — in particular, through sanctions against employers who hired illegal immigrants. If jobs were the attraction for illegal immigrants, then cutting off that option was crucial.


The difference is that President Reagan called this what it was: amnesty. Indeed, look up the term "amnesty" in Black's Law Dictionary, and you'll find it says, "the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act provided amnesty for undocumented aliens already in the country."


There is a practical problem as well: the 1986 act did not solve our illegal immigration problem. From the start, there was widespread document fraud by applicants. Unsurprisingly, the number of people applying for amnesty far exceeded projections. And there proved to be a failure of political will in enforcing new laws against employers.

After a six-month slowdown that followed passage of the legislation, illegal immigration returned to normal levels and continued unabated. Ultimately, some 2.7 million people were granted amnesty, and many who were not stayed anyway, forming the nucleus of today's unauthorized population.


America welcomes more immigrants than any other country. But in keeping open that door of opportunity, we also must uphold the rule of law and enhance a fair immigration process, as Ronald Reagan said, to "humanely regain control of our borders and thereby preserve the value of one of the most sacred possessions of our people: American citizenship."

And here is the crux of the matter!!  Unless the border is secured and the employers hiring illegal immigrants are prosecuted, we will find ourselves in the same mess in another 20 years. 

We have already seen the political will-power of our Congressional Representatives and Senators on the issue of Terrorism.  What sane person thinks that they will have the will-power to follow through on all of the funding and enforcement that comes along with with passing this Bill?  No more than the 1986 law, I guarantee you that.

President Bush said:

“I appreciate the effort of senators who came together to craft this important legislation.  This bill brings us closer to an immigration system that enforces our laws and upholds the great American tradition of welcoming those who share our values and our love of freedom.”

President Bush, I respectfully disagree with you.  If these people respect our country and "share our values," they would not have crossed the border illegally.

The Bill that I would like drafted, passed, and signed is funding to enforce the immigration laws already on the books.  After all, if those cannot be enforced, then how in the world is new legislation going to work any better?

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