The sum total of the argument made by supporters of the Senate amnesty bill is that one either supports their bill or one is against immigration reform. Its a false choice that precludes any meaningful discussion of immigration reform. In truth, the “Gang” bill makes our immigration system worse. It will also further erode the public trust that is central to our Republic.
I have been a long-time advocate of immigration reform. Years ago, when I was at Reason, I reported on our broken immigration system. A big part of our illegal immigration problem is that our legal immigration system doesn’t work. Many hopeful immigrants outside our country have to wait decades to gain entry. For most, though, there is no path or line to enter the US.
The Senate bill, however, will make this problem worse. Here are three reasons why.
1. Hundreds of Waivers and Exemptions Make the System More Arbitrary
Clarity in law is the hallmark of a civilized society. Law that is understandable, and applicable, to everyone serves as the foundation of civil society. The Senate amnesty bill provides detailed stipulations of who can and can’t qualify for legalization and, ultimately, citizenship. Except, when it doesn’t. In virtually every instance, the Senate bill grants federal bureaucrats the authority to waive the requirements. A member of a criminal gang isn’t eligible for legalization, for example, unless a bureaucrat decides that the individual will no longer be a member of a gang. One gang member could be barred, while another is let in. Immigrants eligible for citizenship under the Dream Act have to complete two years of Higher Education, unless a bureaucrat decides that isn’t necessary.
The cumulative total of waivers and exemptions on virtually every criteria makes our immigration system more arbitrary and capricious than it already is. One immigrant will have to pay thousands in fines and penalties, while another has that waived away. The Senate bill is simply the full-employment act for immigration lawyers.
2. Senate Bill Makes Our Immigration System a Jobs Fair
It’s a cliche to say we are a nation of immigrants. Our country was populated by people leaving other countries and seeking a better life. Everything around us was built by immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. They came here with hope. The Senate bill makes them come here with a resume.
The Senate bill is littered with special classes of visas tied to specific industries. Want to work in Alaskan fisheries…come on in. Want to just move to Alaska…not so much. There are special visa categories for ski and snow-board instructors, the tech industry, and the agricultural sector. Corporations are big proponents of the Senate bill and that support is evident in the legislation. There is no visa classification for “I love America and want a better life for my family.”
3. Lacking Enforcement, the Senate Bill Erodes Public Trust
The overwhelming majority of Americans support immigration reform. Our charitable instincts even allow most of us to support a possible “path to citizenship” for those already in the country illegally. The only caveat, however, is that the public wants this to be the last time we have to grapple with illegal immigration. In 1986, the public accepted a deal for amnesty with the promise that the border would be secured and the issue wouldn’t arise again. Since then, however, the number of illegal immigrants has tripled. The Senate bill is, at best, a repeat of 1986.
The Senate bill has a lot of language and rhetoric about border security and enforcement. All of those provisions, however, are either in the future or at the discretion of the Executive Branch to enforce. There are no real “triggers” in the bill mandating secure borders or enforcement, no matter how aggressively supporters of the bill spin. Every requirement, mandate, or “trigger” has a loophole DHS can use to avoid action. The CBO has even estimated that the Senate bill will only reduce illegal immigration by 25%.
The Senate bill is yet another “bait and switch” on the American public. It promises security and enforcement that supporters must realize will never happen. Supporters of the Senate bill are preying on Americans’ natural goodwill to meet a political goal while avoiding the public’s stated policy goal.
Immigration reform is long over-due. Like most other programs run by the federal government, our system is confusing, arbitrary, and traps people in endless loops of regulatory red-tape. Supporters of the Senate amnesty-only bill have tried to frame their bill as the only opportunity for real immigration reform. It is the opposite. True supporters of immigration reform should cheer its defeat.