November 6, 2007

A SAVE On Immigration?

A new proposal on border security and immigration control via employer sanctions has begun to make the rounds on Capitol Hill. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Heath Shuler (D-NC) have sponsored the SAVE Act, which would mandate operational control of the border and secure ID verification at employment as a strategy to curtail illegal immigration. They have won sponsors as diverse as Duncan Hunter and John Murtha, and the pair hopes to gain the attention of House leadership:

Two ardent proponents of border security are teaming up to introduce a bipartisan bill aimed at curtailing illegal immigration through employer sanctions.

Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), who were both elected after strongly criticizing President Bush’s approach to immigration reform, are unveiling a bill Tuesday that has already attracted the support of dozens of members. ...

The Secure America with Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act focuses on three areas: employment enforcement, interior enforcement and increased border security.

One of the more controversial provisions would make the so-called E-Verify program mandatory, a move that raises major concerns with industry officials.

Proponents of the E-Verify program say it allows employers an inexpensive way to ensure they are hiring legally documented workers. They maintain that the program has been successful, but is only being used by a small percentage of employers.

The mandate for e-Verify use will create some hurdles on the Republican side of the House. Business lobbyists have fought the requirement for employers to check each new hire against the Social Security database, claiming higher costs and inaccurate results. Immigration-control advocates point out that current methods of verification also have mandates (the I-9 requirement), and are also prone to error, more so than e-Verify.

SAVE does more than issue employer mandates. It adds another 8,000 Border Patrol agents, and it expands the investigative power of the ICE. SAVE would also mitigate data-sharing obstacles between the DHS, IRS, and the Social Security Administration. Those features may generate opposition not just from business interests but also from civil libertarians, depending on the nature and use of the data-sharing envisioned by SAVE's creators.

The latest bipartisan proposal is also noteworthy for what it does not include. SAVE says nothing about guest worker programs or normalization. It also doesn't propose any changes to the legal immigration process to make it easier for legal immigrants to enter the country. SAVE moves away from the comprehensive approach to immigration reform by addressing the critical issues first, and leaving the other components of comprehensive reform for another debate at another time.

Bilbray and Shuler have the right idea. Instead of ramming this through Congress without debate or study as the Senate attempted earlier this year, the House can prove itself the more contemplative body on this topic with a responsible legislative process. That will give Bilbray, Shuler, and their co-sponsors an opportunity to refine the bill and make its case to their colleagues and an American public that has waited for six years after 9/11 for Congress to take national security a little more seriously.


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» Freshman Congressman Looking to SAVE Immigration from Constitutionally Right
I spend so much time on this blog criticizing our government for what they aren’t doing, that I am now elated to announce I can applaud Congress for what they are in the process of doing. Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.),... [Read More]