June 26, 2007

Touchback Amendment Goes In The Wrong Direction

Congress appears to have a hearing problem. Oh, they have heard the uproar over the immigration reform bill, but they still seem to be deaf to the actual complaints that have fueled the opposition to it. As a result, the backers of the bill will add an amendment today that not only fails to address the chief criticisms of the bill, but actually degrade one of its benefits:

With a crucial test vote scheduled for today, Republican supporters of a sweeping immigration bill threw their weight yesterday behind a significant change to the legislation that would force illegal immigrants to return to their home countries to apply for legal status. ...

Perhaps the most significant shift came from three of the bill's Republican architects: Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Mel Martinez (Fla.). Under the current legislation, virtually all of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants would be granted provisional legal status immediately, provided that within 18 months they pay a fine, cover processing fees and submit to a criminal background check to get a new five-year "Z Visa." If they wanted legal permanent residence, heads of illegal-immigrant households would have to return to their home countries to apply for a green card.

Kyl, Graham and Martinez had already put together an amendment to secure $4.4 billion for border enforcement, create a tracking system to keep tabs on guest workers and permanently bar workers who overstay their visas from returning. Those measures would augment provisions already in the bill to tighten border security and clamp down on employers of illegal immigrants.

Yesterday, the three senators added a provision that would force illegal immigrants to return to their home countries to apply for Z Visas, not just their green cards. With the architects of the bill behind it, supporters predicted that the amendment would pass easily.

In other words, they want to expand the "touchback" provision to come at the beginning of the process. In order to "step out of the shadows," as the bill's backers like to put it, illegal immigrants will have to go back to their country of origin first and apply for the probationary Z-visa. If the bill follows its previous pattern, that will only apply to the heads of households, forcing 4-6 million people to leave the country within a short period of time after the bill's passage -- no mean feat itself.

That sounds like it solves the issue of those who want people deported for their illegal entry, but it doesn't. In the first place, it removes the incentive for self-reporting, the only real benefit of the Z-visa program offers. A significant percentage will just remain in the shadows, and the national-security aspect of the Z-visas will never get realized. Also, it doesn't do much to force the illegals to the "back of the line" on immigration approval, which is the greater issue for many who oppose the normalization process offered in this compromise. It just puts the touchback in a spot where every head of household has to do it, regardless of whether they want permanent residency here or not.

The Senate still hasn't heard the message about the lack of trust the people have in them to secure the border and fix the broken visa system before creating the bureaucratic mess that their normalization proposal will require. The people want to see Congress and the White House successfully start clamping down on the border. The so-called virtual fence has missed its deadline already -- for just 28 miles of it:

Known as Project 28, for the 28 miles of border that the towers will scan, the so-called virtual fence forms the backbone of the Secure Border Initiative, known as SBInet, a multibillion-dollar mix of technology, manpower and fencing intended to control illegal border crossings.

If successful, hundreds of such towers could dot the 6,000 miles of the Mexican and Canadian borders.

But glitches with the radar and cameras have forced the project to miss its June 13 starting date, just as Congress focuses anew on border security in the Senate measure to overhaul immigration law.

Officials at the Homeland Security Department insist that Boeing, which has a $67 million contract to develop the project and others, will soon put it back on track, though they are not providing a new completion date.

This comes 21 years after the last time Congress promised to secure the border. People haven't forgotten that promise, and the failures of both parties to honor it. We don't want to buy normalization a second time as part of the promise that should have been honored by eleven subsequent Congresses and four different Presidents.

Secure the border. Fix the visa program, and the passport system as well. When those tasks have been completed, then we can talk about how best to normalize those remaining in the US and how best to incentivize them to come forward. Once the main problem has been resolved, Washington will have built up enough credibility to gain our trust on flexible solutions.


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Comments (8)

Posted by Herkeng | June 26, 2007 7:31 AM

You are on target with this "very upset" voter. When you say: "Secure the border. Fix the visa program, and the passport system as well. When those tasks have been completed, then we can talk about how best to normalize those remaining in the US and how best to incentivize them to come forward." You are in step with the mindset of my family, friends and neighbors.
The one thing you mention, "Once the main problem has been resolved, Washington will have built up enough credibility to gain our trust on flexible solutions." I think this will take a very long time. Trust is earned not given. Once they (the DC elite's) blew that trust it shall not be given back overnight. The voters have been betrayed and will not forget this come election time. Even if the Bill gets shot down (again) the voters will not forget the back door shenanigans the Congress and POTUS have used to get "Shamnesty" back on the floor.
Those who vote for Cloture on this Bill will be ending their careers. All across the spectrum of folks I know, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, it is the same story, they will not forget this and will vote the arrogant bums out.
The immigration issue has crossed all party lines amongst the voting public. The voters have been scammed for over 20 years on this issue and are, in the vernacular of the today, "Done being played." Come election time I hope the folks in Massachusetts finally dump Kennedy, the folks in Mississippi fire Lott, South Carolina deports Graham, Arizona says "adios" to Kyl and Florida puts Martinez out to pasture. There are more names on the "poop" list but the blood is boiling by just writing the names of the fools above.

I am all for LEGAL immigration. I am staunchly against Illegal immigration.
Congress don't sell us out!

Herkeng USAF (ret)
2nd Generation Legal Citizen

Posted by Papa Ray | June 26, 2007 7:39 AM

I'm sure somewhere you will find a few illegals that will turn themselves in, but they will be few and far between.

Why should they, the majority (at least where I live) all have good jobs, homes, new or nearly new pickups, government assistance and lots of family.

Most have learned to speak passable english, or at least enough for their jobs, not that they need to, because to get a job around here, you need to speak spanish. Most signs and ads are in spanish as well as english, so they don't need to learn to read english.

It's a sea of brown, everywhere you go. Most call it "Mexico North". There are thousands upon thousands of illegals, mixed in with the thousands upon thousands of legals and those that are brown American Citizens.

Why would an illegal turn himself/herself in?

They feel like this is home, and we do nothing to make them feel any other way.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Posted by Ron C | June 26, 2007 7:45 AM

"...Washington will have built up enough credibility to gain our trust..." - Ed

Humph... I don't think my 'trust' in Congress would be bolstered if they pulled the 'immigration reform' and promised to do nothing but secure the borders.

They won't. The DON'T support enforcement of the laws on the books now. They are simply traitors - criminals, and great deceivers.

Posted by Ann | June 26, 2007 8:17 AM

Isn't it much worse than you say?

For example:

An individual stands in the Z-Visa line at a consolate somewhere abroad. "I was in the US for three years," he says as he hands over a copy of a bill he received while in the US, proving he was there.

The consolate worker stamps his visa and the man goes hopping and skipping all the way to the US a fully legal resident.

Of course, the bill was a fake, and the man had never before set foot in the US before.

This would not only be bad with respect to those already here. But it would allow every foreigner with the desire to come into the country to do so pretty much legally.

Posted by GeorgeH | June 26, 2007 8:20 AM


Having to apply in their country of origin instead of here means anyone who can get to a US embassy, whether they have ever been in the US or not, can get a 'Z' visa and enter the US legally. How much documentation of their having been here illegally will be required, a xerox of someones phone bill?
Literally everyone in the world who wants to immigrate will be able to do so immediately.

Posted by J. Ewing | June 26, 2007 8:54 AM

If it is true that the Social Security administration already knows where 9 million or so of these 12 million work, because they are using known false SS numbers, then all of this effort to get them to "come out of the shadows" is just so much window dressing. Draw up 9 million "arrest warrants," then register and track these people until we can decide what to do with them, individually or collectively.

Posted by BoWowBoy | June 26, 2007 8:59 AM

I am not afraid that this type of touchback will be part of the bill .......even though I agree it is a nightmare waiting to happen .......all an illegal alien will need to become a permanent visa holder in the USA is a copy of a water bill.

The reason I am not afraid that this touchback of any kind will happen is because of what I heard Senator Trent Lott say on FOX News Sunday morning program.

Lott called the the folks who want an illegal alien to touchback to their countries of origin .....before they are offered Z visas and guest worker status .......as wanting to treat illegal aliens as "animals".

Did anyone hear this besides me ......??

If Lott feels this way .......the other guys in the back room making the decision to destroy our sovereignty must really despise the American people.

These guys are not satisfied to treat us like we don't know what is good for our country ....Lott went further to portray our wishes to send illegal aliens home .....as treating them like "animals".

No Amnesty ...! No Guest Workers ...!! Build the Fence ..!! Employer Fines and Sanctions ....!! Up hold the laws we have on the books.

Posted by Cousin Dave | June 26, 2007 9:29 AM

I think we're all converging here. The blogosphere has done a great service to the American public, exposing this sham. In particular, I think that even a lot of well-informed people were unaware before this came up of the fact that the "reform" bill's security provisions are simply duplicates of measures that have been passed previously -- and have been ignored by both Democratic and Republican administrations. Thus, the trust issue that Herking menions above. The whole thing has come across to the American public as the world's biggest vote-buying scheme, with the two parties trying simply to out-bid each other.

The shame of it is, there are a lot of things in our immigration system that need to be fixed. Our current green-card system is ludicrously arbitrary and bureaucratic; it is neither fair to applicants, nor does it serve to further American interests. However, because the Washington circus has bungled this thing so badly, the chances of any real reform getting through in this term are now nil.