The Senate immigration bill proposed by the so-called Gang of 8 claims to enforce border security and reform immigration. But in the end it is just an amnesty plan that adds another layer of difficulty to the process of legal immigration.
The United States needs real immigration reform, and Republicans need to show they're on the side of immigrants. Something has to be done.
Some Republican interest in immigration reform is driven by electoral considerations. Realizing that Democrats -- Democrats -- have successfully painted us -- us -- as racists, some in the party are looking for a way to show that we're not. By writing "Immigration Reform" on a piece of paper and voting for it, supporters hope to show Latinos and other special demographic groups that we're not such bad people.
Writing at the Huffington Post, Jon Ward give a decent analysis of the Republican politics of the deal. Republicans on Capitol Hill will take any deal, Ward says, and Marco Rubio just wants to be president. President Obama won't enforce border security with a new law any more than he has in the past. Chuck Schumer is using Rubio to gain the Democratic Party millions of new voters.
While I don't disagree with Ward's analysis, I'm perhaps not typical of conservatives on this issue. My priorities are:
- National Security: We should know who is entering the country. We ask people at ports of entry to show their passports, and ask Americans to take off their belts and shoes and submit to sexual assault to fly between American cities. It seems more reasonable to me to ascertain the identity and intent of those, especially foreign nationals, desiring to cross into our country.
- Open immigration: I don't want quotas of any kind, whether national, ethnic, religious, or skill-based. The Senate plan continues the worldwide blockade on people who want to come to America.
But what does the bill (pdf) say?:
Not earlier than the date upon which the Secretary has submitted to Congress the Notice of Commencement of implementation of the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy and the Southern Border Fencing Strategy under section 5 of this Act, the Secretary may commence processing applications for registered provisional immigrant status pursuant to section 245B of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by section 2101 of this Act.
As National Review's Rich Lowry wrote:
Under the bill, no additional enforcement has to take place before undocumented immigrants get legalized. The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security merely has to come up with a strategy for enforcement and notify Congress that it has commenced. It doesn’t matter if it is a good, bad, or indifferent plan, so long as it is a plan. Then, an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants get legal status.
If the Gang of Eight bill becomes law, a natural political dynamic will take over. Denying any undocumented immigrant newly legal status will seem arbitrary and unfair, and so the notionally tough requirements for legal status will be only loosely applied.
To which Jonathan Tobin replied at Commentary:
Lowry and other conservatives who worry about whether this will be a repeat of the 1986 immigration bill, which promised better enforcement that was not delivered, have a point. But the idea that the measures about border security in the bill are nothing but airy promises is unfair. One can always argue that the government will treat the provisions in the bill as meaningless and that Congress will be too weak to insist on enforcement. But the stakes in this coalition are so high that a repeat of past failures in this manner seems less likely. Even the Democrats understand that the price of Republican support means real border security and this bill provides a template for that.
The entire point is that after Republican support has been achieved and the bill is signed into law, Democrats will no longer have any reason to continue the charade. There is a supernatural level of credulity required to believe that the Obama administration will follow through on enforcement.
Under the Schumer plan, current illegal immigrants do in fact go to the head of the line, being able to apply for legal residency immediately after the Secretary supplies a Southern Border Security and a Southern Border Fencing Strategy. What does that mean?
The term ‘‘Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy’’ means the strategy established by the Secretary pursuant to section 5(a) to achieve and maintain an effectiveness rate of 90 percent or higher in all high risk border sectors.
The term ‘‘effective control’’ means the ability to achieve and maintain, in a Border Patrol sector (A) persistent surveillance; and (B) an effectiveness rate of 90 percent or higher.
Two things should jump out of that: 1) They're only talking about 90 percent effectiveness and 2) that is only in certain areas designated as "high risk".
The ‘‘effectiveness rate’’, in the case of a border sector, is the percentage calculated by dividing the number of apprehensions and turn backs in the sector during a fiscal year by the total number of illegal entries in the sector during such fiscal year.
But wait a second. How do they know how many are entering illegally? That implies perfect knowledge of the extent of illegal border crossings. The bill implicitly envisions a state of border security in which the challenges of detection have been met, but leaves it in the Secretary's interest not to meet them.
The lower the detection rate, the fewer the number of high-risk sectors and the greater the likelihood of meeting the 90 percent goal.
The term ‘‘high risk border sector’’ means a border sector in which more than 30,000 individuals were apprehended during the most recent fiscal year.
Any area reporting fewer than 30,000 crossings will not be designated a "high risk border sector" and will simply not count toward the national assessment of border security.
Homeland Security will have limited organizational incentive to enforce border security in any other area.
The term ‘‘Southern Border Fencing Strategy’’ means the strategy established by the Secretary pursuant to section 5(b) that identifies where fencing, including double-layer fencing, should be deployed along the Southern border.
The Department’s border security goal is to achieve and maintain effective control in high risk border sectors along the Southern border.
Finally, why is it only the Southern Border? Why not the Northern border and our seacoasts, as well?
The bill continues and deepens Congressional involvement in setting standards for who comes here, micromanaging the labor market in the way hard-line socialist countries do.
The idea that the Senate immigration plan improves our border security is ridiculous. It continues the policy Congress managing who immigrates to America, on the theory that Congressional wisdom is greater than that of those wanting to come here. That anyone -- Republican or Democrat -- are falling for it shows them to be driven by politics and not by the needs of the nation.