As CQ readers know, I have advised keeping an open mind and a close eye on the details. The immigration bill could have some benefit, if properly amended and loopholes closed. However, now the Washington Times has a report from the Congressional Budget Office that shows that the bill will fail — and fail rather spectacularly (via Confederate Yankee):
The Senate’s immigration bill will only reduce illegal immigration by about 25 percent a year, according to a new Congressional Budget Office report, Stephen Dinan will report Tuesday in The Washington Times.
The bill’s new guest-worker program could lead to at least 500,000 more illegal immigrants within a decade, said the report from the CBO, which said in its official cost estimate that it assumes some future temporary workers will overstay their time in the plan, adding up to a half-million by 2017 and 1 million by 2027. ….
And in a blow to President Bush’s timetable, the CBO said the “triggers” — setting up the verification system, deploying 20,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents to duty and constructing hundreds of miles of fencing and vehicle barriers — won’t be met until 2010.
Those triggers must be met before the temporary worker program could begin, and Mr. Bush had hoped to have them completed about the time he leaves office in January 2009.
Any immigration bill has to succeed at two tasks: stop illegal immigration by securing the border, and reach a resolution of some kind for the millions of illegals already here. According to the CBO, this bill won’t do either very well. All it does is reduce annual illegal immigration by 25% — which is not nearly enough.
Why? Because without ending illegal immigration, we can’t proceed with normalization. We will eventually build up a new base of people “living in the shadows,” and it will eventually require another normalization effort. We will do nothing but kick the problem down the road once again.
That 25% reduction comes from the border security provisions in the bill, which appear to be a good start but not a complete solution. The reason for that is the border fence — which only goes 370 miles in this bill. If the fence went longer, it might suffice for a solution. However, that would push off the triggers even further than the three years the CBO estimates they will take, even with the 25% solution, twice as long as advertised.
The bill’s authors need to go back to the drawing board. We need solutions that carry a 95% success rate or better, not ones that leave three-quarters of the problem unsolved. We also need to get a solution that offers options that will show success in managing the system, not extend issues like visa enforcement where we have clearly failed for so long.