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Latest “Deal” from the Senate: Pass Amnesty First, Read the Bill Later

On Monday at 5:30pm, the United States Senate will vote on the most sweeping immigration reform proposal it has considered in almost 3 decades – and it will do so having only seen the nearly 1200 pages of text for approximately 72 hours.  Americans – including myself, my fellow senators and our staffs – are still trying to figure out exactly what is in the new Schumer-Corker-Hoeven “deal.” 

Sound familiar?  Pass it to find out what’s in it?  Reminiscent of Obamacare, the lengthy amendment to replace the Gang of 8’s original bill was crafted behind closed doors and introduced late on Friday, after many members had left town.  In the 2007 immigration debate, close to 50 amendments were considered.  But this year, we have only debated 9 – with some of us being completely shut out. 

Given only a weekend to review the language, we will now vote on whether to end a debate that never really began.   To be clear – this is not a difficult vote.   On process alone, we should all vote “no.“  This was by design – the President, Harry Reid and the Gang of 8 preferred all along to ram through a “deal,” and not have a real debate – just like Obamacare.  Worse, just like Obamacare, the “deal” involved lots of horse-trading and buying off of votes at the last minute – a display of everything that is wrong with Washington, and one of the things I specifically campaigned against.

But, on substance – the vote is even easier.   There are too many troubling provisions of the bill to list, such as de facto affirmative action hiring for current illegal immigrants due to Obamacare and huge amounts of discretion for the DHS Secretary to waive deportation and inadmissibility.   And for all the talk, the new Schumer-Corker-Hoeven “deal” is nothing new at all.  It’s the same amnesty-before-false-promise-of-security of the Gang of 8 and the bills of debates past. 

That is why we started this petition, so that Americans can speak out and let Senators know that they oppose the legalization-first bill offered by the Gang of 8 and Schumer-Corker-Hoeven.

Here’s what we know that the bill does:

Grants Immediate Amnesty with Empty Promise of Border Security

Although we are told that it fixes border security, the Schumer-Corker-Hoeven amendment maintains the Gang of 8’s flawed framework of guaranteed and immediate legalization, followed by an empty promise of eventual border security.  This structure repeats the mistakes of the 1986 amnesty, which, as noted by former Attorney General Edwin Meese, is precisely the same as this “deal,” and only encourages more illegal immigration. 

The Schumer-Corker-Hoeven compromise demonstrates that Congress is not serious about meaningful border security.  The first amendment considered by the full Senate in this debate, offered by Senator Grassley, would have required effective control of the border for six months before legalization.  Democrats and the Gang of 8 refused to even consider the merits of that proposal, voting to table it without real consideration.  The Senate then rejected five additional amendments that would have enhanced border security, including completion of additional border fencing and implementation of the biometric entry/exit US-VISIT system required by current law, both before legalization.

Provides No Real Border Security at All

Now, the same proponents who led the charge against those amendments say, “Trust us.”  A closer look at their border security plan, however, reveals gaping holes.  Most notably, the amendment’s security enhancements are not contemplated until almost ten years after the bill’s enactment; none would be in place before amnesty.  Moreover, the signature “border surge” that would double the Border Patrol does not require that a single new agent be added before amnesty is granted just six months after the bill becomes law. 

Weakens Fencing Requirement

Regarding a southern border fence, Schumer-Corker-Hoeven provides for only single-layer fencing, instead of the double-layer fencing that was required under the Secure Fence Act of 2006.  It leaves in place the Department of Homeland Security’s asserted discretion to decide whether and where double-layered fencing is appropriate and leaves open the possibility that no fencing may be built at all.  As a result, the United States is simply unprepared to deal with the influx of immigrants who will seek to enter this country illegally in pursuit of a path to U.S. citizenship during the two-and-a-half year amnesty period, when deportations and enforcement are virtually halted. 

Weakens Current Law on Entry-Exit System

Schumer-Corker-Hoeven also weakens current law with respect to an entry/exit system, requiring only biographic — rather than biometric — identification.

Current law requires implementation of a biometric entry/exit system (called US-VISIT) – that is, a system that checks individuals’ biological characteristics, such as a fingerprint.  But this biometric system has never been setup.  Rather than enforce this current law, Schumer-Corker-Hoeven weakens it by requiring ports to use only a biographic entry/exit system – a system that checks only non-biological characteristics, like an individual’s name or date of birth.  It is much easier to falsify biographic information, which is precisely why current law requires a biometric system.  

Avoids any Metric for Measuring True Border Security

It also drops the current requirement that 100% of the border be under operational control (the ability to detect and respond to all cross-border illegal activity), adopting instead the Gang of 8’s flawed “effectiveness rate” metric to measure success.  The “effectiveness rate” metric is based on subjective estimates of the number of illegal border crossing, so it does not provide an accurate measure of whether the border is secure.

Assumes Future Significant Illegal Entry

By its own terms, the Schumer-Corker-Hoeven amendment recognizes that illegal immigration will remain a problem in the future.  It mandates that as many as 1,000 distress beacons be placed in areas along the border where deaths are known to occur.  It also directs the enhancement of “training, resources, and professionalism” for border officials in Mexico and Central American countries, as well as an educational campaign about the perils of the journey to the United States, for nationals of those countries.

Fails to Measure Up to Alternatives

A number of my colleagues have offered, or are ready to offer, far superior approaches.   For example, besides the Grassley Amendment I already noted, Senator Thune offered an amendment to require additional border fencing before legalization, and Senator Vitter offered an amendment to require implementation of the US-VISIT biometric entry/exist system before legalization.  Both were rejected. 

In addition, I offered but have been refused a vote on, a simple, five-page amendment that stands in stark contrast to the mess created by Schumer-Corker-Hoeven and avoids the mistakes of the 1986 amnesty by ensuring a truly secure border before legalization is granted.  My amendment would: triple the Border Patrol; quadruple equipment and assets to monitor the border; complete all fencing required by the Secure Fence Act of 2006; fully implement US-VISIT; and establish operational control over 100 percent of the southern border.  In addition, it would require that these things be completed or a portion of DHS’s budget would be block-granted to states for border security.  Finally, it would pay for border security by offsets against federal spending rather than taxes and deficits.  This clear plan leaves Americans no doubt about what to expect and, most importantly, ensures that we put a stop to illegal immigration.

Requires American People to Stand up and say No

Of course, Americans will not get this kind of real security if they do not demand it.  Sponsors would have us believe that as many as 70 of my colleagues will support the Gang of 8 bill, as amended by Schumer-Corker-Hoeven.  Rarely do we see so transparently how votes in the Senate are bought and sold, but the laundry list of buyoffs in this deal details plainly the path to amnesty.  The last-minute introduction and overwhelming page count are by design, and this exercise has become more about politics than principle.  This is Washington at its worst, and America deserves better.  The proponents of this bill are squandering an opportunity to fix our legal immigration system responsibly and finally secure our borders.  Instead, they are jamming through amnesty that undermines the rule of law and harms those who will desperately seek it.

Tell your Senator to vote “no.” 

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