Captain's Quarters Blog

« First Mate Update | Main | Bush Provides Ladder For Congressional Climbdown »

May 25, 2006
Senate Passes Immigration Bill

The Senate has passed the comprehensive immigration reform bill championed by George Bush and ushered into existence by John McCain and Ted Kennedy. Both support and opposition for the bill were bipartisan affairs, with the 62-36 final tally a victory for the centrists:

The 62-36 vote cleared the way for arduous summertime compromise talks with the House on its immigration measure focusing on border enforcement with no guarantee of success. Republicans and Democrats said energetic participation by Bush would be critical. ...

In more than a week of debate, the Senate made a series of changes in the legislation. Still, the key pillars were preserved when opponents failed to knock out the guest worker program or the citizenship provisions. A new program for 1.5 million temporary agricultural workers also survived.

To secure the borders, the measure calls for the hiring of an additional 1,000 new Border Patrol agents this year and 14,000 by 2011, and backs Bush's plan for a short-term deployment of National Guard troops to states along the Mexican Border. The bill calls for new surveillance equipment as well as the construction of 370 miles of triple-layered fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers.

The new guest worker program would admit 200,000 individuals a year. Once here, they would be permitted for the first time to petition on their own for a green card that confers legal permanent residency, a provision designed to reduce the potential for exploitation by employers.

A separate new program, a compromise between growers and unions, envisions admission of an estimated 1.5 million immigrant farm workers who may also apply for permanent residency

Even supporters of the bill conceded the three-tiered program related to illegal immigrants was complicated.

Complicated? It's ridiculous, and I doubt it will survive the conference committee. This bill reminds me of the BCRA, which not so coincidentally had one sponsor in common with this bill. Rather than just set up a streamlined normalization regime, the authors placed politics above common sense and created a bureaucracy that will cost American voters a fortune, and one that will probably go mostly unenforced as a result.

And in the end, all three of these paths carry an option for permanent residency and a green card. The notion that any of the people admitted under this program can be described as "temporary" is hopelessly naive. The Senate made sure of that by wringing their hands over the potential for employer exploitation of migrant temps without considering that any employer-enforced temp program will open the door for abuses regardless of the temporary status of the workers.

I suspect that the conference committee will simply chuck the temporary-worker programs and come up with one single program that all current illegal immigrants can follow, and boost the numbers of annual immigration from Mexico to compromise on the influx. Not only will that remove the obvious hypocrisy from the so-called "temporary" status, it will also remove the necessity of creating an entirely new enforcement agency to track down temps who don't leave. That way we can have an honest accounting of how many immigrants we will allow into the country.

Of course, I also expect a real border security solution, one that creates more than 375 miles of border barriers to slow the flow of illegals. The argument from the Senate has been that a barrier alone will not solve the problem, but without a credible and contiguous barrier and the security to back it up, no one will bother to enter the helpful new programs that require illegals to cough up cash and pay back taxes in order to join. Border barriers are force multipliers; they increase the efficiency of the border patrols by narrowing the areas which require acute supervision. It also forces the flow of illegals into those narrow areas. The Senate bill also contains provisions for 14,000 new Border Patrol agents, an improvement in the numbers from earlier, which will make that border barrier even more effective if deployed properly.

My hope is that the conference committee ensures that border security comes first before any normalization plan. I'd trade some rational form of normalization for solid and credible border security -- but as I wrote yesterday, I don't yet believe this bill contains either in its present form.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 25, 2006 7:06 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry is

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Senate Passes Immigration Bill:

» Postmortem On The Immigration Bill from All Things Beautiful
Do you have that heavy headed feeling this morning? Like the one you may have experienced after a little too much to drink the night before... [Read More]

Tracked on May 26, 2006 5:55 AM

» Thoughts on Amnesty from A Lady's Ruminations
The Senate bill also says that illegal aliens who can prove (Hello! Ever heard of forged documents! That's what these people use!) they have been in the country five years will only have to pay three out of the past five years in back taxes. The IRS ... [Read More]

Tracked on May 26, 2006 2:25 PM


Design & Skinning by:
m2 web studios

blog advertising


Proud Ex-Pat Member of the Bear Flag League!