I want to address -- again -- the arguments against the concepts outlined in the proposed immigration compromise announced yesterday. I've received a few angry e-mails and comments, but also a number of thoughtful objections to my post yesterday, attempting point-by-point rebuttals. Those members of the CQ community deserve the same thoughtful consideration.
Argument 1: Congress will never enforce the border-security provisions/triggers.
Many people firmly believe that Congress (and George Bush) will ignore the border-first, employment-first triggers and skip right to normalization. In this regard, they use the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli amnesty plan, but they forget that Simpson-Mazzoli didn't have any border-security provisions. Congress promised to add them later, and never did. That's why Jon Kyl and other Republicans insisted on security-first triggers before any of the rest of the plan can proceed.
Some say that Congress will just ignore the law anyway. If so, then you can't trust Congress to do anything, so even if they passed a border-security-only plan, you still can't support it. That's an argument for futility, where one does not believe in the legislative system any more.
Argument 2: It will prompt a flood of illegals.
What do we have now? What have we had for the last 21 years? Doing nothing won't slow it down, which is why we've been screaming for a border-security bill. This compromise tries to move from the status quo. It may not have enough, but it does provide exponentially more resources to the border than anything we've ever seen, and we can add to it in subsequent Congresses if necessary.
Argument 3: It rewards illegal behavior; the penalty for illegal entry should be deportation.
There are 12 million illegals in the US. Let me explain how difficult that would be. In the first place, the ICE has to find them, usually where they work. They then have to build a probable cause for a raid and search warrants (unless we want to toss out the 4th Amendment). That takes quite a bit of time; it might take months to build that kind of a case against an employer, but at least it will take a few weeks. Then they raid the shop, arrest everyone without proper identification, and start the deportation process -- which requires a hearing for each person in court to determine their status. During that period, we have to house and feed them.
Now, let's say we can summon up the vast resources it would take to send 10,000 people a month through that long, laborious process. (In comparison, we have 16,000 murders a year, and it sometimes takes years to resolve the cases.) It would still take 100 years to deport all 12 million illegals in that manner -- while clogging our courts, eating up our law-enforcement resources, and disrupting American commerce and politics for a century, all while we're fighting a war with radical Islamist terrorists.
Argument 4: Once we start cracking down on the border and on employers, the illegals will self-deport.
People offer this without a shred of proof that it works. I don't have a shred of proof that it doesn't. However, once we've secured the border, they won't be able to just pick up and leave any more; we will have trapped them inside the US. Furthermore, despite all the handwringing about American poverty, it is still a lot easier to be poor here than in Mexico or Central America. Even if we kept their kids out of our schools, blocked them from our health facilities, and denied them any chance at Social Security, I doubt they would find the conditions here more harsh or unpalatable than whence they came.
If we really want to solve the porous border and the immigration issue, then we need to start somewhere to stop the problem from getting worse first. This bill is not perfection by any means -- but it is a reasonable starting point.
* Putting Border Security And Enforcement First: Border security and worksite-enforcement benchmarks must be met before other elements of the proposal are implemented.
* Providing Tools For Employers To Verify The Eligibility Of The Workers They Hire: Employers will be required to verify the work eligibility of all employees using an employment eligibility verification system, while all workers will be required to present stronger and more verifiable identification documents. Tough new anti-fraud measures will be implemented and stiff penalties imposed on employers who break the law.
* Creating A Temporary Worker Program: To relieve pressure on the border and provide a lawful way to meet the needs of our economy, the proposal creates a temporary worker program to fill jobs Americans are not doing. To ensure this program is truly "temporary," workers will be limited to three two-year terms, with at least a year spent outside the United States between each term. Temporary workers will be allowed to bring immediate family members only if they have the financial ability to support them and they are covered by health insurance.
* No Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants: Illegal immigrants who come out of the shadows will be given probationary status. Once the border security and enforcement benchmarks are met, they must pass a background check, remain employed, maintain a clean criminal record, pay a $1,000 fine, and receive a counterfeit-proof biometric card to apply for a work visa or "Z visa." Some years later, these Z visa holders will be eligible to apply for a green card, but only after paying an additional $4,000 fine; completing accelerated English requirements; getting in line while the current backlog clears; returning to their home country to file their green card application; and demonstrating merit under the merit-based system.
Again, if the compromise enforces these provisions and the others listed in this paper, it's better than another two years of doing nothing while the problem gets worse.