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So the Gang of Eight (I prefer Banda de los Ocho myself) is about to release their plan for immigration reform, after months of behind closed door dealing, leaks, intrigue, accusations, and other nonsense.
1. Modernizing the legal immigration system
There will be a shift away from the current family-based system, and more emphasis on giving visas to high-skilled immigrants, particularly those who have Ph.D.s in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. There will be a new visa created for guest workers, called the W visa, which will be a three-year permit given to low-skilled workers.
2. Securing the border and ending illegal immigration.
If the legislation passes, the Department of Homeland Security will be required to be able to surveil the entire border at all times (using technology, such as drones) and to be successfully catching nine out of ten people trying to cross the border.
Additionally, they will have to implement universal E-Verify, which all employers, including small businesses, will have to use.
3. Legalization process for current illegal immigrants.
Those who are illegally here will have two options: Return to their native country and be able to apply for a green card in five years, or remain in the U.S. and apply for temporary legalization status. In order to be eligible for the temporary-legalization process, immigrants will have to show that they have been in the country continuously for at least two years, for which documents such as medical records and utility bills will be accepted as proof. They will also need to pass a background check; those with, say, speeding tickets would probably be fine, but a felony conviction would not be permissible.
Those who are given temporary legal status will be required to pay a fine and back taxes.
Those with temporary legal status will be allowed to be unemployed about four to six months; longer than that, they risk losing legal status. Anyone who is no longer able to be self-sufficient and needs federal assistance would lose legal status and be eligible for deportation. While Obamacare’s benefits apply to all who are legally present in the United States, the Gang has agreed that those with legal status through this legislation will be an exception, and will not be able to get the benefits of the health-care law.
Now, the above seems reasonable…but details will matter…as will the politics.
1. What happens if, after 10 years of Federal incompetence (which is to be expected), the border security measures have failed? Democrats at that time will certainly whine about the process taking too long, and will blame Republicans for the failure. Even though Obama will largely be responsible for the implementation of that system, who will get the blame, in reality?
2. Is it even possible to catch 90% of the illegals crossing the border? It is a reasonable question, since our best data shows that even in areas where we are doing a good job, we only catch about 50% of illegal immigrants. And that doesn’t even discuss the reality that as of right now, the Department of Homeland Security admits that its measures for how effective border security is doing is flawed and not accurate. There is no accurate metric to even measure success and failure.
3. The law calls for deportation of all illegals who have arrived less than two years before the bill is passed, and any coming in the future. Do we really trust Barack Obama to deport these people? Along with their children? How likely is that?
4. As a practical, the E-verify system may be the most critical part of this entire puzzle. The border really will never be secure. However, you can virtually ensure that no one can work in the country. But how harsh are the punishments going to be? They must be very harsh, and strictly enforced, otherwise the incentive to find a way into the country will remain.
5. Will the plan cause long term assimilation? This is an issue that is almost never discussed, but is vital. Every other immigration trend has resulted in the classic melting pot of ethnicity and culture. Will this do that, or will in cause these groups to splinter into their own enclaves? This is one reason I still believe English as the national language is an important requirement.
6. Maybe Republicans should demand the fence be completed? I know, it has become passe to suggest it, but in a poll out today, 53% of Americans support the proposal. Link the border security to the building of the fence, and use the penalties paid by illegals to fund the fence construction?
Ultimately, this entire episode should flash warning signs to all Republicans and Conservatives. I have been a big proponent of some immigration reform plan for years (you can see my proposal from 2009 here), but without a firm guarantee of securing the border for all time, I am very circumspect.
Furthermore, this will be a moment of truth for several Republicans, most notably Sen. Marco Rubio. I believe he has been honest in his belief that there is a conservative based solution to this. And in all honesty, I am surprised he has gotten the security promises that are seen in this deal. The unfortunate part is that going forward, I am not sure that the security portion of this plan is at all achievable, and even worse, there is no definitive way to prove one way or another if it has been achieved.
The same argument that has been made for a decade stands: border security first. The repeat of the 1986 immigration failure cannot be allowed again. And until that is shown to be the case, I remain a skeptic.
This was cross posted at Neoavatara.