Amnesty V Border Security. What is in the Bill? Part 3

This is the continuation on Part 2..

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8. Disregard for Federalism

The Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution clearly articulates that powers not explicitly delegated to the federal government are thereby reserved to the states. The Founders understood that in order to know what is truly necessary and prudent for the protection of citizens’ rights and liberties, one must be in constant interaction with the people. For this reason, the Founders felt that states fostered the best-equipped individuals to represent the interests of public safety on behalf of their own citizens.

States also have a unique familiarity with their communities that enables them to better navigate the difficult issues of detection, detention, and deportation of illegal aliens. Following this same rationale, many legal experts believe that state and local governments retain inherent authority to enforce federal civil law. Opponents to this practice, however, feel the federal government should be the controlling voice when determining immigration policies and border security, with little to no guidance from the states themselves. As was the case with Arizona’s S. B. 1070 immigration law, when the state attempted to implement requirements it felt necessary to determine the immigration status of an individual, the federal government saw the state as an obstacle rather than an ally.

Yet, with fewer than 6,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, failing to use the one million state and local law enforcement personnel to supplement federal personnel makes little sense. State and local law enforcement would, in fact, be a powerful force multiplier for immigration law enforcement. Yet, S. 744 continues to promote a top-down federal approach to addressing immigration while leaving minimum room for real collaboration.

The bill does include a select few instances where some form of collaboration presents itself between the state, local, and federal governments. For example, four of 10 appointed members to the Southern Border Security Commission are to be representatives of the four states along the southern border. One representative is to come from each of the states and be either the governor or someone appointed by the governor. Also, with approval from the Secretary of Defense, a governor may order personnel of the National Guard of his or her own state to perform operations and missions in the southwest border region for the purposes of assisting U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  These instances, however, are very limited.

State and local law enforcement would be a powerful force multiplier for immigration law enforcement. Yet, the Senate bill promotes a federal top-down approach to addressing immigration, leaving minimum room for real collaboration.

Otherwise, the bill provides no clear proposal for partnerships between the federal and state or local governments. Indeed, the legislation makes no mention of effective collaborative immigration enforcement programs, such as Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows the federal government to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement to “act in the stead of ICE agents by processing illegal aliens for removal.” Instead, it pushes a federal-government-knows-best-and-will-fix-all mentality.

9. Special Interests and Earmarks

Among the many dangers of working on comprehensive pieces of legislation is the propensity for earmarks and unique carve-outs for special interests groups. The 1,000-plus-page immigration bill is no exception. There are several special-interest considerations that reveal not only the cronyism involved in the government process, but also how Congress picks winners and losers by determining who receives money and who does not.

Lawyers would receive an enormous boon and would directly benefit from the enactment of S. 744. An administrative appellate authority would be established that authorizes and incentives massive class-action lawsuits regarding immigrant status. The costs for these suits would be borne by taxpayers, but they unfortunately do not stop there. Taxpayers would also be on the hook for providing counsel to aliens, both legal and illegal, regardless of the alien’s ability to afford his own. This would provide an avenue to file a suit if an alien was ever denied free counsel, increasing the burdens for the Attorney General and the Department of Homeland Security. These two examples are just a few of the many provisions in the bill which boost business for immigration lawyers.

There is also the issue of funding for a wide assortment of new grants and programs. The catch to these programs is that the Secretary of Homeland Security decides which organization gets the money authorized by Congress. Among the many is a whopping $50 million grant to “assist eligible applicants” through the process of applying for amnesty. The Initial Entry, Adjustment, and Citizenship Assistance Grant Program also receives $100 million, and the Legal Services Corporation, previously reserved for U.S. citizens and aliens with legal status, is expanded to offer services to blue-card aliens and workers with grievances, among others.

The cronyism goes further, as lawmakers include special provisions for specific special-interest groups. Ski and snowboard instructors, for instance, are exempted from the H-2B visa cap. Also contained within the bill are special provisions for the residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and for carrier maintenance crews for airlines, cruise lines, and railways. Lawmakers also include preferred entry for select groups of individuals through the Jobs Originated though Launching Travel (JOLT) Act provisions in the bill, through which visitors from Canada, China, and Brazil receive preferential treatment when applying for visas and are fast-tracked through the process.

Ok, America so does this sound right to you?

A large, comprehensive bill is not good for Americans because of the limited time for proper scrutiny, and, as S. 744 makes clear, it is an easy vehicle for hiding special-interest provisions that benefit a few people while ignoring the rest.

10. Fails on Assimilation and Opportunity

The Senate immigration reform bill fails to address many of the nation’s challenges that inhibit opportunity for immigrants, residents, and citizens alike. In fact, in many cases it would only make the problem worse and foster greater dependence on government, particularly among new immigrants and amnesty recipients. Whether this dependence is in the form of the entitlement system or assimilation programs which emphasize participation over integration, the outcome is the same: an over-reliance on the federal government without equipping individuals to earn their success.

In terms of integration, the bill would shift assimilation priorities from the Office of Citizenship established by President George W. Bush to the newly created Office of Citizenship and New Americans and a new Task Force on New Americans. Whereas the current model of assimilation and integration emphasizes the instruction in the culture, history, and language of the United States through community and faith-based organizations, S. 744 uses a federal-centric approach. Indeed, the Task Force on New Americans would be created to “provide a coordinated federal response to issues that impact the lives of new immigrants and receiving communities.”

Similarly, the Initial Entry, Adjustment, and Citizenship Assistance (IEACA) grant program would pour $100 million into public and private organizations, selected by the government, to design or implement integration programs. Grants from the IEACA program would also fund direct assistance to individuals seeking to apply for amnesty, those seeking an adjustment of status, and those seeking to become naturalized U.S. citizens, along with “any other assistance that the Secretary or grantee considers useful to aliens who are interested in applying for registered provisional immigrant status.”[60] Essentially, what this and other programs in the bill would do is promote an entitlement view of citizenship and government.

Money… Money… Money… going everywhere.. Do we the taxpayers that are handing over our hard earned money have a say in this? We already have our poor and our hungry, why don’t we work on taking care of them first?

At the same time, S. 744 does nothing to correct the U.S. serious entitlement problems. There is nothing in the bill that reforms the broken entitlement system and creates a system of earned success. Rather than furthering an expansive welfare state which only breeds a culture of dependence, America should foster reforms to the education and welfare systems. These reforms should ensure that the U.S. welcomes all new immigrants into a society of opportunity and prosperity.

Making Immigration Work for All

The U.S. immigration system is in need of significant reform, but S. 744 relies on old, flawed solutions that will do nothing but make the current situation worse. Instead of passing this deeply flawed immigration bill Congress should:

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  • Reject amnesty. Amnesty ignores the rule of law, rewarding those who broke the law with legal status and ultimately U.S. citizenship. Amnesty is also unfair to those who followed the rules and waited or are still waiting to enter the U.S. Furthermore, amnesty only makes the U.S. immigration problems worse by encouraging even more illegal immigration. Amnesty will also lead to trillions in new spending and huge increases in government bureaucracy. Such costs will be borne by current taxpayers. Instead of another costly and unfair mass amnesty, Congress should develop fair, compassionate, and practical solutions for unlawful immigrants.
  • Take a piece-by-piece approach. Each aspect of immigration reform requires close attention to detail to make sure that any policies are well crafted and actually solve the problems they were designed to tackle. Trying to fix immigration with one comprehensive bill will only encourage special-interest handouts and ambiguous, poorly thought-out policies. Legal immigration, temporary worker programs, interior enforcement, border security, state and local cooperation, and many other important issues all deserve close inspection and rigorous debate. Tackling each of these critical policies one at a time will give each the attention it deserves, and foster meaningful reform.
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  • Enhance border security.  The U.S. has dramatically increased the number of border agents over the past decade, but more needs to be done. Rather than using border security as a political football and promoting hollow metrics, meaningful steps should be taken. Through the use of technologies like unmanned aerial vehicles and cameras and sensors, the Border Patrol will be better able to monitor the border, detect and halt illegal border crossings, and better protect U.S. sovereignty. Congress should provide the U.S. Coast Guard with additional resources and funding so that it can provide adequate maritime security. To truly enhance border security, the U.S. must also seek more cooperation with Mexico. Specifically, U.S. and Mexican law enforcement should make greater use of Border Enforcement Security Task Forces and the Merida Initiative to cooperate on a variety of border security and law enforcement issues.
  • Reform the legal immigration system. The U.S. legal immigration system should be fixed to ensure that those who want to come to the U.S. legally can do so in a reasonable and efficient manner. To do so, Congress should reform United States Citizenship and Immigration Services by correcting the agency’s faulty budget model to make it less dependent on application fees. The current visa process should also be streamlined to make it easier for foreigners to come here legally. Reforming the legal immigration system should also include new and enhanced avenues for the entry of skilled workers, particularly those educated in the U.S. For those who stay, the U.S. must also have a thoughtful policy of immigrant assimilation.
  • Make immigration more responsive to the economy. In addition to an improved legal immigration system, the U.S. should seek to foster a focused temporary worker program tied to market and workforce needs that would provide a rotating, temporary workforce. Such a program would not only help ensure that employers’ labor needs are met; it would also help to discourage additional illegal immigration by creating another avenue for legal entry and employment. Critically, a temporary program must be truly temporary or it will simply become a new path to unlawful entry, not a solution that fixes it.
  • Reinvigorate interior enforcement measures. The Immigration Reform and Control Act promised enforcement in exchange for amnesty in 1986. More than 25 years later, this promise has not yet been fulfilled. Interior enforcement measures and programs such as Social Security No Match, random workplace inspections, checks of I-9 forms, and E-Verify help to depress the use of illegal labor and make it clear that the U.S. takes enforcement of its immigration laws seriously.
  • Recognize state and local authorities as responsible partners. The U.S. has thousands of local and state law enforcement officers who could augment the limited and scattered capabilities of federal officers and agencies. Through programs like 287(g), which allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement to train state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws, state and local authorities can enhance enforcement. By working as partners with the federal government, state and local authorities can also help to guide policy, and improve security and enforcement of U.S. laws in a more efficient and effective manner than the current federal-government-knows-best approach.

A Nation of Immigrants, Built on American Principles

U.S. coins bear the phrase “E pluribus unum”—“out of many, one”—to signify the varied backgrounds of those who came together to make this country great. Millions have come to the U.S. because it is a nation built on the principles of liberty, limited government, and the rule of law that enable everyone to strive for the American Dream. The U.S. immigration system should allow those who want to pursue the American Dream and come to the U.S. legally to do so. The Senate’s misnamed Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act tramples on the principles that made the U.S. the country it is today by disregarding the rule of law, increasing the size of government yet more, and allowing unlawful immigrants to fall into government dependence. Instead of repeating the mistakes of the past, the U.S. should implement reforms that encourage lawful immigration, discourage unlawful immigration, and uphold America’s first principles.

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