As a long time personal proponent of immigration reform, I was open to hearing what the so-called Gang of 8 would come up with as a solution to our immigration problems. I was certainly skeptical, and far from optimistic, but I was trying to be open-minded about the process.
After seeing the full proposal, and many of the specifics, it is clearly to openly state my opposition to the plan.
My opposition to the plan is not simple or reactionary, but slowly formed after reading the specifics of the bill, which do not appear to solve the bulk of the problem that faces us today. As follows:
1. Fails to insure Border Security.
Any rational, thoughtful analysis of our immigration problems starts with border security. This was the ultimate failure of the 1986 Immigration reform process signed by Ronald Reagan. Although he was promised a security measure after the delivery of amnesty, it never occurred, and over 20 million illegal immigrants would cross our borders in the following two decades.
The Gang of Eight appears ready to repeat those mistakes in principle. To be sure, they are talking strong about security measures. Led by Marco Rubio and John McCain, they have promised that security will be paramount.
But what of the specifics in the package?
The bill asks the Secretary of Homeland Security “to achieve and maintain effective control in high risk border sectors along the Southern Border.” This is defined as “effective control” as “persistent surveillance” and a 90 percent apprehension rate at three out of nine total border sectors.
Sounds great. Except for a myriad of problems.
First, Secretary Janet Napolitano, in Congressional hearings, openly admits there is no way to measure ‘90%’ apprehension rate. “No one number captures the evolving and extensive nature of the border,” Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing about the immigration bill. “There’s no one metric that’s your magic number.”
She stated that currently, DHS uses a process of estimation that guesses at the ‘trend’ that is occurring. This is an amorphous and virtually non-existent standard that is clearly susceptible to manipulation.
Second, the one and only strategy that over time has shown significant success in reducing immigrant crossing (other than the recession which made it economically less desirable to cross) is the border fence. In places where the border fence was built, there was an estimate (again, by the vague DHS standard) of 80% drop in crossing.
So, of course, this gang of 8 has no serious plan to build a fence.
The legislation allows the secretary to develop a “fencing strategy” for border security…and nothing more. In fact, there is no requirement to build ANY fencing, and there is barely any funding for the prospect anyway.
To allay the fears of skeptics, the Gang added the prospect of the “Southern Border Security Commission”. This commission is supposed to guarantee that border security is achieved before any of the legalization processes start. The rub is, the commission has no force of law or power to insure their recommendations. They are a advisory group…and nothing more. The DHS can simply override their recommendations, and still be following the law. Even worse, the Secretary of Homeland Security is given wide latitude in enforcing the law. Considering this administration’s laughable enforcement measures, and complete dismissal of the laws as they stand, anyone that gives them the benefit of the doubt in enforcement is a fool.
2. Back Taxes
Marco Rubio has made a lot of comments about the ‘punishments’ that illegal aliens will have to accept on their path to legalization. One of these is the penalty on paying back taxes.
Only if the bill actually accomplished that feat.
In fact, the bill as is does not force illegals to pay any penalties whatsoever. What it merely requires is that they pay “any applicable federal tax liability,” defined as “all Federal income taxes assessed.” Taxes that are assessed means only those liabilities that have been officially recorded by the IRS. The problem, obviously, is that most illegal aliens have been paid in cash. Thus, there is no way for the IRS to verify what liability is, in fact, owed.
Thus, an illegal alien could claim they made no money…and that they owe no penalty. And for all practical purposes, there is no realistic recourse for the IRS. So on top of no criminal penalty, there would also be no financial penalty for the majority of those involved. This includes no penalties for those that stole and used illegal social security numbers, and would give amnesty to employers who knowingly hired illegal aliens previously.
3. Merit based immigration system
The modernization portion of the plan seeks to attempt to focus immigration policy on the economic needs of the country, instead of the ‘family based’ immigration system that favored relatives of those arriving on our shores, regardless of their training or background.
I support this in concept, however the current system still gives preferences to family. Additionally, many lobby groups, including the Congressional Black Caucus, are pushing the Gang to again allow quotas from various countries around the globe, in the name of diversity.
I would prefer a system which is color blind, and based on credentials. Have quotas based on need. For example, let us assume you need 100,000 computer science majors. Have a lottery, in which the names of all qualified applicants are placed. Then every year, meet your quota. This would be the fairest method to choose who should come, and from where.
4. Public Charge
Along the same lines as above, a rational immigration plan should block any candidates that would, with reasonable expectation, become a burden on our welfare state. Today, this is not consider at all (look no further than the Boston Bombers for evidence).
In fact, not only does the Gang of 8 bill not take it into consideration…it specifically excludes the criteria from consideration. It states that for the purpose of determining eligibility to register for provisional legal status — the first step on the pathway to citizenship — that section 212(a), paragraph (4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (the act of the 1952 law that prevents anyone who is deemed a risk to end up on welfare or other programs) “shall not apply.”
Not only that. Additionally, as soon as legal residence was obtained, these immigrants would be eligible for all legal benefits. That includes welfare, food stamps, and Medicaid. Although theoretically it is supposed to exclude Obamacare benefits, it would give them access to the Medicaid system, at which point they would tacitly be within the Obamacare system.
This does not even begin to calculate the costs to the overall system, for which all legal residents, including all illegal aliens one year after the bill is passed, would be eligible. Yes, some of that will be countered by increase federal taxes paid by these new legal residents, but it is not clear whatsoever if this would be a net loss or net gain to the Federal treasury. The Gang of 8 plan simply ignores the issue all together.
For all the talk on the Right, we still are not focusing on the real issues that most Americans are interested in. Without going into extensive depth, here are the issues as I see them, in order of priority:
1. Secure the border. This will include a physical fence, border police, and drones and other electronic surveillence.
2. Confirmation of border security success. First and foremost, the responsibility for determining success must reside in someone other than the Federal government. Why? Because under this administration, we have seen the manipulation that takes place for political reasons. No, the confirmation of success must be by some bipartisan group, preferably a group made up of both federal and state jurisdictions, where there is equal voice for both.
3. A strong e-Verify system. Not only must the system be foolproof; it almost must have harsh penalties, both for the immigrant and the employer. The penalties should be so harsh as to make anyone considering violating the law to think twice before even considering hiring someone without legal status.
4. Deportation system. This is not talked about much at all in the Gang of 8 bill. But a simple question must be answered by anyone voting for this: what happens to new illegal aliens that are found in this country? Anyone that is unable to answer this simple question should not be given any credibility whatsoever. The simple answer is that they must be deported immediately. There should be no second chances, once this plan goes through. However, the current plan is less than clear on this point.
5. Legalization process. I am ultimately not against the legalization process as stated in the Gang of 8 plan. My preferred solution is to have those that wish to gain citizenship first return to their home countries; those that don’t want that option may state as legal immigrants.
However, I am willing to concede the point if I get the border security promises that are essential to this deal. The reality is without giving up much more on security, there is no way any special legal exemption will pass the House of Representatives, as it stands.
I accept the argument that illegals now in this country have a form of amnesty already. Furthermore, I accept that no drastic solution, like deportation, can ever be a realistic option. But every argument made on this issue resides on the ability to secure the border. Without that, there is fundamentally no reason to pass any bill.
This was cross posted at Neoavatara.