The U.S. Senate should have focused less on forging “paths to citizenship” and more on blocking paths to the great American gravy train.
Its supporters describe the immigration bill the Senate passed last night as “sweeping” and “comprehensive” – which means its amnesty provisions remained intact. The bill passed by a 62-36 vote (see the vote tally here).
In addition to a “path to citizenship” – which, when applied to at least 11 million illegal immigrants, is less a path than a superhighway – the bill includes a Guest Worker Program for 200,000 people a year, who can then apply for a Green Card. As Sen. Jeff Sessions has said, “[T]here is nothing ‘temporary’ about the new guest worker program created by this bill.” Moreover, the Associated Press reported, “A new program for 1.5 million temporary agricultural workers also survived.” They can also apply for a Green Card. In theory, “only” 650,000 aliens a year will be granted permanent resident status, or 13 million in 20 years – more than the population of Illinois.
This bill doubles the amount of legal immigration, while reorienting our employment visas, for the first time, toward unskilled laborers. (The National Academy of Sciences found each “migrant” with less than a high school education costs the United States $90,000, and that immigrants only begin to “contribute to our economy” if they have a post-secondary education.)
But our economy will contribute to them. In addition to millions of dollars U.S. taxpayers spend for the welfare, education, health care, and incarceration of illegals, the Senate assures aliens will receive all the money they “contributed” to Social Security – even if they stole someone’s identity in the process. They’ll also be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. In all, this “comprehensive” reform could cost $54 billion within a decade. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-PA, surmised, “[It] certainly is possible that it will bust the budget.”
The Terrorist Amnesty We Dodged
All that can be said of the Senate bill is that it could have been worse. Patrick Leahy wanted to add an amendment – SA 4117 – that would allow some of those deemed guilty of providing terrorists with aid and comfort to immigrate; 19 senators supported the measure, including Minority Leader Harry Reid, John Kerry, Russ Feingold, Ted Kennedy, Barack Obama, Joe Lieberman, and three Republicans.
An amendment introduced by Dianne Feinstein would have granted blanket amnesty to all illegals. According to the roll call, more than one-third of the U.S. Senate – including Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee – believes in full amnesty.
A Steel Lining
To secure these massive changes to our body politic, the Senate included some measures to protect our border – the only part of their bill supported by large majorities of the American people. Employers caught hiring illegals could be fined up to $20,000 per illegal, with jail time as a possibility after numerous convicted offenses – which is an improvement from the current amnesty program employers seem to enjoy. The illegals granted amnesty will pay $3,250 in fines, plus back taxes. A subsequent amendment rendered a provision making English our national language – a measure that takes on some urgency in the face of an influx of 30-60 million Spanish-speaking immigrants over the next two decades – was rendered purely symbolic.
Most important in the bill is a 370 mile border fence – roughly half of what the House agreed to last December. The Washington Times revealed, “Immediately before the final vote yesterday, conservatives suffered what they viewed as one final insult. Buried in a 125-page last-minute amendment was a requirement that local, state and federal officials in the U.S. consult with their Mexican counterparts before they can start building the fence.”
The Senate adds 500 additional miles of vehicle barriers…which will assure illegals in those locations do not cross in vehicles. Ronny Dodson, sheriff of Brewster County, Texas, told Fox News illegals have developed ingenious methods of avoiding detection, like hiding. “Someone could hear me coming for miles if I was in a vehicle – he could just lie down and no one would see him,” Dodson said. The federales graciously granted Sheriff Dodson 40 Border Patrol agents to patrol a county six-times the size of Rhode Island.
The Senate amnesty bill pledges to hire 1,000 Border Patrol agents this year, with a goal of 14,000 new agents by 2011. And if the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act has taught me anything, it’s that the Senate never misses its projected goals.
Based on experience, even this is utopian fantasy. In the past, Bush has called for 2,000 new Border Patrol agents – only to authorize one-tenth that many. Border Patrol actually increased more under President Clinton than Bush-43. Yet this assurance, in addition to whatever National Guardsmen Bush stations at the border, is supposed to allay the nation’s concerns while the Senate sticks up for the Business Roundtable.
Elsewhere, the bill makes clear enforcement is not a Senate priority. Russ Feingold and Sen. Sam Brownback – who continues to undermine his already longshot presidential candidacy – successfully moved to allow activist judges to stay deportations essentially at will.
More politically savvy politicians voted another way. Ten of the 15 Republican senators up for re-election this year voted no, including those considered most vulnerable: Rick Santorum, Conrad Burns, and Jim Talent. (Ohio’s Mike DeWine continues to bait his state’s conservative base.) Three of the four Democrats who voted no also face re-election this fall, including vulnerable Maria Cantwell and Ben Nelson. Even House members are reacting. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-GA, wisely noted, “We don’t want ‘Republican’ and ‘amnesty’ in the same sentence.”
It won’t be if the House has its way. The Conference Committee will have to iron out the differences between the Senate amnesty bill and the House’s all-enforcement bill, passed last December. The House, which by design is constitutionally and ideologically closer to the American people, has pledged to stand firmly against any amnesty in committee. Perhaps no bill whatever will result – which, contrary to Tony Snow, would not be received by Americans less favorably than amnesty. Or perhaps the two will coalesce along the lines of a bill introduced by conservative leader Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN. It includes a guest worker program – but unlike his Senate colleagues, Pence “gets it” on border enforcement. He recently noted, in 2005 alone, more than 200 illegals detained by Border Patrol came from the Middle East, “countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and others.” His plan would require workers to leave the country before receiving a biometric worker ID card – and would provide no “path to citizenship” for those blazing the trail north for economic reasons. After a specified period, the illegals would be required to leave the country. Supporters hail this as “free market deportation.” If such a provision could be combined with genuine border security and an enforceable exit-date for guest workers, it would be a tremendous step forward. But enforcement, not amnesty, must be the order of the day.
This Senate bill will comprehensively change our country and alter the dynamics of our workforce. Perhaps the House will comprehensively overhaul the Senate bill. Otherwise, the Republican Congress will soon experience a “sweeping” of another kind.
This article originally appeared as the Memorial Day weekend lead on Friday, May 26, 2006, on FrontPage Magazine.