An Overview of Recent News & Opinions About Illegal Immigration Debate, Part VI
Recent days have been particularly active times in the illegal immigration debate. Since it is difficult to keep up with all that is going on, this is a sixth posting which will present excerpts from a range of news and opinion articles across the MSM and the blogging world.
There are more than a few problems with the Senate’s Hagel-Martinez illegal immigration bill.
First, the bill in the Senate is an amnesty bill in more ways than one: Not only are we offering amnesty to illegal immigrant lawbreakers but we are offering amnesty to corporate lawbreakers:
Senate bill protects employers of illegal aliens from penalties from Washington Times:
Among those who will be cleared of past crimes under the Senate’s proposed immigration-reform bill would be the businesses that have employed the estimated 10 million illegal aliens eligible for citizenship and that provided the very “magnet” that drew them here in the first place.
Buried in the more than 600 pages of legislation is a section titled “Employer Protections,” which states: “Employers of aliens applying for adjustment of status under this section shall not be subject to civil and criminal tax liability relating directly to the employment of such alien.”
Supporters of the legislation insist that such provisions do not amount to “amnesty.”
“The legislation we are considering today is not amnesty,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said last week. “That is a pejorative term, really a smear term used to denigrate the efforts at comprehensive immigration reform. This is not amnesty because amnesty means a pardon of those who have broken the law.”
Mr. Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, and others argue that the bill is not amnesty for illegal aliens because they will have to pay $2,000 in fines before they gain citizenship.
The law does not, however, provide for such fines against employers who have broken the law by hiring the illegals.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, vehemently opposes “this effort to waive the rules for lawbreakers and to legalize the unlawful actions of undocumented workers and the businesses that illegally employ them.”
Amnesties, he said, “are the dark underbelly of our immigration process.”
“They tarnish the magnanimous promise enshrined on the base of the Statue of Liberty,” Mr. Byrd said last week on the Senate floor. “Amnesties undermine that great egalitarian and American principle that the law should apply equally and should apply fairly to everyone.”
While most of the focus thus far has been on the “amnesty” granted to illegal aliens, opponents only now are discovering the broad range of crimes that will be forgiven under the legislation.
Lawyers for the Senate Judiciary Committee have scoured the bill and come up with a list of 31 crimes relating to illegal immigration that would be wiped clean.
Under current law, simply entering the country illegally can result in a six-month prison stay and a $250,000 fine. Aiding in that crime carries a similar fine and a five-year prison sentence. Once ordered deported, an illegal racks up $500 per day of continued “illegal presence.”
In addition, there are the perjury and false statements associated with fraudulently filling out federal tax forms. Each instance carries up to a five-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine. Then there is the wide array of crimes relating to forging false documents needed to obtain work. Punishments for those crimes range from civil fines to 25 years in prison.
Also, there are crimes relating to the misuse of Social Security numbers needed to obtain work. Those crimes can result in five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Businesses that have committed any alien-hiring crimes would be forgiven under the provisions of the bill, although the laws would remain on the books and, thus, future violations could be prosecuted.
In addition to absolving illegals for past misuse of Social Security numbers and documentation, the Senate last week voted to allow aliens to get Social Security benefits based on working in the United States illegally…
What a day in America, when conservatives find themselves agreeing with the porkmeister Senator Byrd!
On a more serious note, think about the implications of this crazy course we are going down: I am sure the content of this bill makes a number of law-abiding U.S. citizens wonder why they cannot get an amnesty from the Senate should they choose to consciously violate American laws in the future, like these illegal immigrants and corporations have done. After all, if the rule of law is to be selectively applied and people who violate laws can have penalties on their crimes waived retroactively, doesn’t that create an impulse where others will want our country to become consistently arbitrary in its application of its laws? The consequences of this are non-trivial, as noted here and here.
Second, the agency responsible for processing over 10 million illegal immigrants is not prepared:
Immigration bill’s timeline hit from Washington Times:
The director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that would administer a new guest-worker program and rule on applications from millions of illegal aliens, says the pending Senate bill doesn’t give his agency enough time to prepare for that giant task.
“Quite frankly, I don’t think that’s really practical. Ninety days to register 12 million people. Do the math,” Emilio T. Gonzalez, who took over as director early this year, told The Washington Times…
If Congress passes an immigration bill that includes a temporary-worker program, a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, or both, USCIS will be the agency that has to administer it.
Under the pending Senate bill, and under President Bush’s new vision, illegal aliens would be divided into long-time and short-time residents, with most of the long-time residents being conferred an eventual right of citizenship. But given the prevalence of fraudulent documents, the problem will be determining who is a long-time resident…
USCIS is part of the Department of Homeland Security and is one of the three agencies that used to make up the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The other two — U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — are law-enforcement agencies…
But Mr. Gonzalez says he is making it clear to his employees that they are part of national security, too — and the last line of defense in preventing terrorists from gaining a permanent legal foothold in the country…
But he said his agency definitely will need time to write regulations and handle the flood of applicants, which could top 10 million. He said he would need at least two to three times as much time as the Senate has called for in its bill…
Otherwise, he said, they risk a repeat of 1986.
“We’re litigating cases today from 1986. And I think the reason we’re doing that — I’m not a lawyer, by the way — is, if you don’t take care of the details, that’s what’s going to bring you down,” he said…
Third, we are releasing illegal immigrants after their apprehension without knowing if they are associated with any potential terrorism risk factors:
Illegals released for lack of funding from the Washington Times:
More than one-third of the illegal aliens apprehended each year and found to be “removable” from the United States are released because of a lack of personnel, a shortage of beds and inadequate funding to hold them while determining their legal status, a report says.
The inability of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to ensure their departure — including those who pose national-security or public-safety threats — exposes the country to “significant risks” from would-be terrorists and criminals, said a report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.
The report, released Thursday, said that of 774,112 illegal aliens apprehended during the past three years and ruled to be “removable,” 280,987 — or 36 percent — were released because of a lack of personnel, bed space and funding.
“This presents significant risks due to the inability of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ICE to verify the identity, country-of-origin, and terrorist or criminal affiliation of many of the aliens being released,” the report said.
The report said that although apprehensions have climbed by 19 percent since 2002, authorized personnel and funded bed-space levels have dropped by 3 percent and 6 percent, respectively. It said those “shortfalls encourage illegal immigration by increasing the likelihood that apprehended aliens will be released while their immigration status is adjudicated.”
A removable alien is one who has been found to have violated immigration law, pending an appeal, or committed a crime or poses a security risk…
Meanwhile, Senator Feinstein wants to expand the pool of illegal immigrants eligible for citizenship. The same article notes that “Last night in the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist filed a “cloture motion” to ensure a final vote on the immigration reform legislation before the end of this week. The Senate yesterday also rejected a proposal by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican, aimed at removing an incentive for farmers to hire illegal aliens. The amendment would have equalized the wages paid to immigrants working on farms.”
And, it is not a surprise that “Since March, the average weekly number of driver’s license applications by immigrants and illegal aliens has nearly doubled in Maryland, where legal residency is not required of applicants.”
And why do we think this Senate bill will improve the failed status quo?
The Heritage Foundation has been quite active in the illegal immigration public policy debate; some of their major research papers are listed below:
Robert Rector on Senate Immigration Bill Would Allow 100 Million New Legal Immigrants over the Next Twenty Years
Robert Rector on Amnesty and Continued Low Skill Immigration Will Substantially Raise Welfare Costs and Poverty
Matthew Spalding on Making Citizens: The Case for Patriotic Assimilation
Tim Kane and Kirk Johnson on The Real Problem with Immigration… and the Real Solution
Kirk Johnson on The Senate Compromise on Immigration: A Path to Amnesty for Up to 10 Million
Kris Kobach on Courting Chaos: Senate Proposal Undermines Immigration Law
Kirk Johnson on The SAFE Visa: A Good Starting Point for a Truly Temporary Guest Worker Proposal
James Jay Carafano on Senate Immigration Plan Fails to Deliver Comprehensive Border Security
James Jay Carafano on Immigration Enforcement and Workplace Verification: Sensible Proposals for Congress
Another thoughtful policy piece is Newt Gingrich on Ending the Dishonesty: The Way Forward on Border Control and Patriotic Immigration.
Other recent commentaries include:
Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics
For previous posting information, refer to Parts I, II, III, IV and V.