Sen. Cornyn’s ‘Lipstick’ Border Bill Provides Cover for 2017 Amnesty, Say Critics

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

An unpublished border-security bill drafted by Texas Sen. John Cornyn does not curb employers’ ability to hire low-wage illegals, and endorses less than 10 miles of extra border wall, but immigration experts say it may provide political cover for a 2017 amnesty push by Democrats and business groups.

“There are a lot of sound things and necessary things [in the bill], but there are a lot of necessary things that are conspicuously missing … it looks like more of a half-hearted attempt into fooling the public than a step forward in enforcement,” said Jessica Vaughan, the policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies.

“There’s nothing on E-Verify [for verifying the legality of job appliants], there’s nothing on worksite enforcement at all, so I’m a little bit skeptical how much difference it would make” for actually reducing illegal immigration, said Vaughan, who described the bill as “lipstick on a pig.”

“I can’t help but wonder if it is designed to be combined with an amnesty,” Vaughan told Breitbart. “It would be the typical kind of ‘Grand Bargain’ offer of some enforcement with a massive amnesty and possibly other kinds of [foreign worker] visa programs,” she said.

Pro-American immigration reforms, including Vaughan, say illegal immigration can be sharply reduced at very modest cost by mandating all employers verify that each job candidate can legally work in the United States. Currently, many employers voluntarily use the free government-run E-Verify computer site, but it is not mandatory.

The Cornyn bill contains “the same stuff they’ve been peddling for a long time, which doesn’t have any teeth in it,” said Ira Melhman, a spokesman at the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “This was what they were trying to sell [in 2013] to make the ‘Gang of Eight’ more palatable to the public,” he added.

The bipartisan 2013 “Gang of Eight” amnesty bill offered an amnesty for at least 11 million illegals plus 30 million additional immigrant workers and consumers requested by companies and investors — so shifting more wages and taxes from Main Street to Wall Street.

The 2013 amnesty bill was backed by every major business group, plus many GOP Senators,  who also recognized it was very unpopular. In response to polls, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker introduced a last-minute “border surge” bill to help other Senators fend off critics of the amnesty. Their border surge bill included much dramatic border-protection language and promises of major spending — but it included no penalties for business if Congress or a future president refused to implement the border surge.

Amid much media cheerleading, the Senate passed the Corker-Hoeven surge amendment and then approved the Gang of Eight’s amnesty-and-cheap-labor bill by 68 votes to 32. The same process was tried in the House, where Texas Rep. Michael McCaul pushed a supposedly pro-security bill, which was so weak that the pro-amnesty Democrats included it in their amnesty bill.

Nonetheless, the ‘Gang of Eight’ amnesty was blocked in the House by public opposition, by GOP activists, and by House Speaker John Boehner. In the subsequent election, the Democrats lost nine Senate seats and their Senate majority. 

This year, McCaul is working closely with Cornyn on his border bill.  Staff in Cornyn’s office and in McCaul’s office did not respond to questions from Breitbart. 

That recent history explains why pro-American reformers fear the Cornyn legislation is the “lipstick on a pig” — the pig being a  series of pro-amnesty, cheap-labor bill backed by Democrats and business lobbies. 

Already, Senators are developing amnesty-style bills that might be hidden behind Cornyn’s lipstick bill, Vaughan said.

The other GOP Senators include Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who wants to import 500,000 foreign contract-workers each year, plus their families, to replace Americans.

That is a very large number. Each year, 4 million young Americans leave school and start looking for decent jobs that will help them get married and raise children. Under current policy the federal government imports 1 million immigrants and roughly 1 million foreign contract workers for jobs lasting several months or several years.

Democratic Senators are also developing pro-amnesty bills. For example, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin has developed the so-called “Bridge Act” to provide amnesty for at least 750,000 foreign-born sons and daughters of illegal immigrants.

In contrast,  Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Georgia Sen. David Perdue are proposing a bill that would favor highly skilled immigrants who could raise Americans’ productivity and wages. Their bill would likely reduce the inflow of low-skilled immigrants, or old and sick immigrants, who get green cards via family chain migration.

In the House, the McCaul bill is being developed outside the jurisdiction of the Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s judiciary committee. He is a former immigration lawyer in Virginia, which has been flipped from Republican to Democratic by the arrival of many Democratic-voting immigrants since 2000.

According to documents provided to Breitbart, Cornyn’s bill would:

allow $20 billion in spending over 4 years, or $5 billion a year, but does not actually appropriate the funds.

endorse the construction of less than 10 miles extra border wall in Texas, plus less than 30 miles of border walls along rivers.

require the government spend funds on high-tech surveillance systems, such as camera-carrying balloons, which are expensive to operate and can be taken down quickly by a future Congress or president.

allow the federal government to compensate state and local governments for policing illegal immigration problems.

include Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey’s bill to punish “sanctuary cities” which use illegal immigrants as workers and consummers. 

allow quicker repatriation of migrants who claim to be youths, or so-called “Unaccompanied Alien Children.”

set longer criminal penalties for coyotes who smuggle illegal immigrants, 30-year jail penalties for attacking law-enforcement officers, longer detention of dangerous illegal-immigrants, and deportations for drunk-drivers,

allow agency officials to exclude officials from countries that refuse to accept the repatriation of illegal immigrants, and to remove passports from immigrants who help illegals.

limit judges’ authority to review immigration decisions by the administration, and warns judges they have to minimize their interference in administrations’ immigration policymaking.

The long list of measures in the Cornyn bill includes many duplicative, unfunded, trivial or toothless sections. For example, it reaffirms immigration powers already held by the administration, micromanages border defenses, sets tough-sounding penalties for offenses that already carry strong penalties, and issues toothless warnings to judges.

But the long and dense bill still fails to include the cheapest, most effective and basic measures against illegal immigration, such as making E-Verify mandatory, or including a new law encouraging the government to check company payrolls for illegal workers, said Vaughan.

The determination to exclude the simple fixes for most immigration problems shows that the GOP Senators don’t want to learn anything from 2014 — when pro-amnesty Democrats lost their majority and nine seats in the Senate — or from 2016, when outsider Donald Trump swept away the GOP establishment, she said.

“They don’t have enough respect for voters — they think Americans were fooled by Trump,” she said.

Even though legal immigration is gradually flipping states from red to blue, GOP Senators “think they are smart enough to preserve themselves in their positions and relationships with their donors” as legal immigration shrinks the GOP power, she said.

GOP politicians “still think they know better” that the voters, she said. 

Roughly 550,000 illegal immigrants crossed the border in 2016.  But legal immigration adds roughly 1 million workers, consumers and renters per year to the economy.

This legal inflow includes some very skilled workers and some people who become very successful entrepreneurs, but it also dumps a lot of unskilled workers into the country just as a new generation of technology is expected to eliminate many types of jobs. It also annually shifts $500 billion from employees to employers and Wall Street, and it forces state and local government to provide $60 billion in taxes to businesses via routine aid for immigrants, and it pushes millions of marginal U.S. workers out of the labor force and into poverty, crime and opioid addiction. High immigration also reduces employers’ need to recruit disengaged Americans, to build new facilities in high-unemployment areas, or to buy productivity-boosting machinery or to demand that local schools rebuild high school vocational training departments for the millions of youth who don’t gain much from four-year colleges.

Follow Neil Munro on Twitter @NeilMunroDC or email the author at


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