04 May 2010

An immigration bill, by adults

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Thanks to Lindsay Graham and Chuck Schumer, the Senate has taken the lead on what appears to be a strong, commonsense proposal to address the problems posed by our broken borders. In case conservatives are curious, the proposal is 26 pages long; roughly 17 of those pages deal with enforcement.

The highlights:

Border control agents would gain access to Department of Defense equipment.

Installation of high-tech ground sensors across the entire southern border, with ICE agents given the capability to respond to the activation of the sensors in the areas they are patrolling.

"Substantial" increases in the number of border control agents.

The creation of a border patrol auxiliary unit to aid ICE agents.

The Secretary of Homeland Security will be given power to deploy the National Guard to the border.

The creation of a comprehensive electronic entry-exit system that issues alerts when immigrants have overstayed their visas.

DHS "will promptly identify, investigate and initiate removal proceedings against every alien admitted into the United States on a temporary nonimmigrant visa who exceeds his or her period of authorized admission beyond a specified period or otherwise violates any terms of the alien's nonimmigrant status."

The issuance of new, biometric Social Security cards to allow electronic authentication of work credentials. Employers hiring workers will be required to verify an employee's legal ability to work by participating in this new federal system. The kicker: "Within five years of the date of enactment, the fraud-proof Social Security card will serve as the sole acceptable document to be produced by an employee to an employer for employment verification purposes." The bill promises the biometric cards will be used as proof of right to work and not citizenship, but we'll see ...

Penalties for hiring undocumented/unverified workers will be increased by 300 percent.

The bill has a number of provisions encouraging the influx of highly skilled workers, encouraging foreign nationals who obtain a college degree in the U.S. to stay and work in America.

Like the 2005 Senate bill, Graham/Schumer requires all illegal immigrants to come forward and register. (This will no doubt evoke cries from the right of "amnesty," but like before, that's not entirely accurate.) The ostensible idea of this provision is to encourage illegals to assimilate into American society as law-abiding, tax-paying individuals, but enforcement of this provision does not appear to be addressed very thoroughly in the proposal. Illegals who have criminal convictions or otherwise threaten national security will be denied. Illegals who are granted some sort of "lawful" temporary status must wait an additional eight years to be deemed "lawful permanent residents." In order to qualify for such status, however, these individuals must demonstrate English language skills, satisfactorily pass background checks (including ones that evaluate potential ties with terrorism), have paid all taxes and registered with Selective Service. (This is similar to the "path to citizenship" in McCain/Kennedy that conservatives claimed was tantamount to "amnesty.")

As a result of the comprehensive federal legislation, states and municipalities would be expressly preempted (read: barred) from enacting their own immigration laws.

What my fellow conservatives need to understand is that no bill that comes through Congress will be perfect. Inevitably, Mitch McConnell will find something wrong with it and try to convince you that it's deeply flawed and not worthy of passage. I personally think the new biometric Social Security card is a bit Orwellian -- I'd suggest to Sens. Schumer and Graham that they rethink this proposal. The provision dealing with the 11 million illegals currently in the U.S. admittedly needs more teeth, but laws are already on the books to deport illegals who are picked up. This is precisely what ICE agents do anyway.

Look, conservatives -- Congress will never, ever pass legislation that immediately sets ICE agents on a scavenger hunt for 11 million people. It's not politically palatable, so just drop it. ICE doesn't have the resources to do this, unless you'd prefer that all ICE agents leave the border and all local law enforcement in border states ignore their normal duties and devote their time exclusively to rounding up illegals. It is legitimate to have a quibble with Graham/Schumer's "path to citizenship" -- and truth be told, I'd rather it not be a part of the bill -- but you need to think for yourselves whether the rest of the bill is worth it. Because I think it is. Our immigration system has been far too broken for far too long. It's time to act, even with a flawed bill on the table.

You have two choices: Pass this bill, or maintain the status quo.

1 comment:

SJ Reidhead said...

I would love a requirement for a biometric voter card. Think about it - registration must be way ahead of an election. It would be much more difficult to cheat. Could not have same day voter registration.

Then again, I have a rich fantasy life!

The Pink Flamingo