It gives me no pleasure to say this, but it's increasingly clear that Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) hasn't completely read the immigration bill he's touting. It seems like every day, another claim made by defenders of the Gang of Eight bill gets shot down by critics who actually have read through all 844 pages.
Personally, I was most immediately and deeply skeptical of the claim that our "new Americans" would be expected to pay back taxes and fines, in exchange for amnesty. I've just never been able to imagine such an imperative actually working in practice, particularly when administered by the same government that insists those 11 or 12 million illegal aliens are untraceable phantoms who can't possibly be arrested or deported. Not to mention that a lot of these people would end up with zero or negative tax liability, which means "paying back taxes" would more likely end up involving the government cutting them a check, if rules were not carefully written to prevent it.
Writing at the Daily Caller, Mickey Kaus goes even further and calls the back-taxes requirement "basically a fraud," citing the actual language of the bill from a Politico article, which bore the dismaying title "Gang of Eight rolls dice on immigration":
Negotiators had to choose between a hard-line approach favored by Republicans, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), that would have required immigrants and employers to painstakingly piece together a tax history so the government could collect what is owed and a less burdensome option of focusing on people who already have a past-due bill with the Internal Revenue Service.
They chose the milder approach and punted the details to the Treasury Department and IRS to hash out down the road.
Kaus interprets what this means in practical terms:
In other words, it looks as if illegal immigrants will only have to pay back taxes if the IRS has already moved to assess them for it–which would be why the text of the bill (pages 68-69) says they only have to pay ”Federal income taxes assessed in accordance with section 6203 of the Internal Revenue Code,” which is the section on assessments. What about income taxes that weren’t paid or assessed because illegal immigrants were working off the books, or using fraudulent Social Security numbers? No worries. The Gang of 8 will not collect them.
Tougher language on back taxes was discussed, but it's not in the bill the Gang of Eight is actually pushing. They just pretend it's still in there. Or, to be more charitable, perhaps Rubio and some of the bill's other defenders don't realize this requirement has been effectively disabled. Kaus is not inclined to be so charitable:
Rubio’s published materials now often carefully say to-be-legalized immigrants would have to merely ”pay taxes” as opposed to pay “back taxes.” That hasn’t stopped the bogus “back tax” meme from being propagated during Rubio’s current round the clock Con-the-Cons tour. Meanwhile, Grover Norquist explicitly and deceptively still says the bill would collect “back taxes.”
Over at the American Spectator, Betsy McCaughey also cites specific language from the Gang of Eight bill to argue that a considerably more important and loudly-repeated promise is false: amnesty-seekers would be able to collect welfare benefits.
Immigrants are already supposed to be kept out of Food Stamp Nation, but that's not how it works in practice:
Expanding legal immigration will push up spending on food stamps, Head Start, housing subsidies, and other benefits legal immigrants are eligible for upon arrival. Though Section 212(a)(4) of the U.S. Code says no immigrant who’s at risk of becoming a “public charge” can get a green card, it is never enforced. Half of green card holders have household incomes below 138% of the federal poverty line, and they’re also largely uninsured.
Insuring these legal newcomers will add $100 billion over the next decade to the ever rising cost of Obamacare. The health law makes legal immigrants eligible for subsidized private health insurance as soon as they arrive. Half of these newcomers will qualify for maximum assistance, costing $9,000 per enrollee, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
As for Rubio's claim that provisional residents "will have to be able to support themselves, so they'll never become a public charge":
The Senate bill does say that, citing the never-enforced section 212(a)(4). But the bill also waives that requirement for anyone who is unemployed, in job training, getting a high school or GED diploma, taking care of a child, younger than 21 or older than 60, or attending college (pp. 99-102). That covers everyone. To stay in this country as a provisional and qualify for a green card in ten years, you need to be working except if you’re not (Sec. 245C(b).
Once illegals become provisional, they’ll qualify for in-state tuition rates at public colleges, a subsidy funded by taxpayers (Sec. 2245D(d)).
More benefits may be forthcoming. The bill establishes a New Americans Task Force charged with ensuring that federal programs “adequately address” the healthcare, education, and job training needs of new immigrants (Sec. 2524).
The bill’s authors showed no respect for Congress’s fiscal responsibilites. Funding is provided for task forces, committees, and new programs. and the authors skirt around “pay as you go” by calling virtually all funding “emergency” under the Statutory Pay As You Go Act of 2010.
(Emphasis mine.) In keeping with my observation yesterday that it's foolish to trust the people who deliberately broke our immigration system to fix it, McCaughey notes that "Sections 2106, 2534, 2535, and 2536 put community organizations in charge of educating immigrants about citizenship and American principles. Indoctrination on the merits of a welfare state is more like it."
Marinka Peschmann of the Canada Free Press extensively quotes language from the Gang of Eight bill to argue that it makes the already-loose asylum laws - very much in the spotlight after the Boston Marathon bombing - even weaker. More discretion is granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security - an office currently held by the clueless ideologue Janet Napolitano, who is currently struggling to explain how the agencies under her purview managed to ignore repeated warnings and numerous red flags about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The grace period for filing multiple asylum requests is doubled from one year to two, and more extensive provisions for re-opening denied claims are provided. The current system is absurd enough to have granted the Tsarnaev family "asylum" from a country they returned to visit on vacations.
The lessons to be taken from this can be applied to all sorts of legislation, not just immigration reform. Bills change during the legislative process, invalidating promises made by the original authors, who might not even be aware of every alteration to their original vision. The larger and more "comprehensive" the bill in question, the more likely these changes are to escape public notice. We must swiftly transition away from discussing the intentions of would-be reformers, and ask them to address the specific language contained in the actual bill. And don't forget about all the last-minute amendments that festoon complex legislation like Christmas-tree ornaments.
It's time to scuttle this "comprehensive immigration reform" mess and start over, with a simple bill addressing border security, problems with our legal immigration system, and the proper enforcement of current immigration law. The problem was not created with a single comprehensive piece of legislation, and those who created it have never been honest with the American people. Let's reverse both of those trends by demanding clear legislation to address the needs of current American citizens first, and see where that leaves us in a couple of years.