Anmesty V Border Security ~ What is in the Bill? Part 2

I hope that you have read ~ Part 1

Illegal immigration 1

4. Open Season on Spending

Another key concern is that S. 744 would ignore the U.S. spending and debt problems. Indeed, the bill would provide the Secretary of Homeland Security with extensive new spending authority. This is in addition to ballooning spending on welfare, entitlement, and other public benefits for those granted amnesty. For example, the Senate bill gives $8.3 billion to the Secretary of Homeland Security in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund.This fund would be used for the implementation of various provisions of the bill, such as $3 billion for the Southern Border Security Strategy and over $1 billion for general start up costs associated with this bill. While Congress calls for these funds to be repaid by fees and penalties, there is no guarantee that this will happen. Indeed, Congress has been known to use trust funds and new streams of money to pay for additional spending. This “spend now, repay later” mentality worsens the U.S. fiscal condition.

The bill also includes opaque spending measures with no clear limits, listed as “such sums as may be necessary.” These unlimited spending measures include funding for the new Office of Citizenship and New Americans, free cell phones for those who live or work near the border, and undefined and obscure “grant programs” within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that fund public or private nonprofit organizations to assist amnesty applicants. These open-ended streams of money reduce transparency and accountability, making misuse or wasting of funds more likely.

Worryingly, all of this new spending would not be offset in the budget, even though it is required by the Budget Control Act (BCA). A loophole in the BCA allows the Gang of Eight to list the bill as “emergency spending,” thus enabling lawmakers to spend billions outside existing budget limits. Of course, emergency spending is supposed to be for events that are sudden, unforeseen, temporary, and require immediate action. Even though this bill meets none of those criteria, too many in Congress are willing to ignore the law and the U.S. spending problem. As a result, S. 744 would only add to the U.S. growing national debt, both in the short term and the long term.

5. Expansion of Government Bureaucracy

In addition to creating an open season on government spending, the provisions within S. 744 would also substantially expand government bureaucracy. The bill creates several new offices, task forces, and commissions including the:

  • Southern Border Security Commission, composed largely of appointed members and charged with making recommendations to achieve effective control along the border;
  • Department of Homeland Security Border Oversight Task Force, composed of members appointed by the executive and charged with providing review and recommendations on government immigration and border enforcement policies and programs, and their specific impact on border communities;
  • Task Force on New Americans, composed largely of Cabinet members and created to establish coordinated federal policies and programs to promote assimilation.
  • Joint Employment Fraud Task Force, created to investigate compliance with immigration employment verification requirements; and
  • Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research, charged with analyzing labor shortages, developing methodologies for determining the annual cap for the newly created employment-based W visa, and help employers to recruit W visa holders.

Even where the bill does not explicitly create new government agencies and offices, it is likely to expand government bureaucracy. For one, the amnesty provisions contained within S. 744 would create a flood of applications to be processed by USCIS, an agency that is already struggling to keep up. Yet, instead of providing much-needed reforms to USCIS that would create a healthier and more responsive agency, an issue that is not addressed within the bill, the likely response will be to simply throw more money and manpower at the problem. The same response is likely to be true for the Internal Revenue Service, which may require more personnel to enforce the bill’s requirement that amnesty applicants satisfy applicable federal tax liability.

Additional provisions also establish burdensome government regulations and fees that promise to have a direct effect on business, including the setting of mandatory wages for non immigrant agricultural workers and pro-union provisions restricting agriculture employers’ ability to hire needed workers. The bill also established numerous fees to be paid by employers seeking foreign labor, which add to business costs and ultimately fund many of the bill’s other misguided priorities. Such regulations and fees will only serve to burden business, raise costs, and decrease the incentive for employers to create new jobs.

6. Loopholes and Ambiguity

At more than 1,000 pages, it should come as little surprise that the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is laced with trade-offs and ambiguity. Much like Obamacare, the complexity of this legislation creates several loopholes and waivers within U.S. immigration law, fostering an environment where Congress neglects its constitutional duties. By delegating much of Congress’s responsibility to secure the United States borders and control immigration to the executive branch and unelected bureaucrats, this legislation would make a challenging issue worse.

Throughout the legislation, Congress grants unprecedented discretionary and regulatory powers over immigration to the Department of Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security, for instance, may waive portions of the Immigration and Nationality Act when considering an alien’s eligibility for RPI status. This includes restrictions on admittance of those who have committed crimes involving moral turpitude or use of controlled substances, prostitution, and smuggling. The Secretary, along with the Attorney General, is also granted the authority to waive requirements for receiving amnesty set in the bill for “humanitarian purposes, to assure family unity, or if it is otherwise in the public interest.” These broad terms could be used to apply exceptions to a wide range of otherwise ineligible illegal immigrants, including criminal aliens. Indeed, the word “waiver” alone appears 94 times throughout the legislation. Of course, this does not even take into account the vast areas over which the bill gives federal bureaucrats free rein to write regulations for implementing the law. In the case of Obamacare, it has been more than three years since President Obama signed the bill into law, and the regulations are still being written.

At the same time, loopholes are also abundant throughout the legislation. For one, as previously mentioned, amnesty applicants need not prove that they were physically present in the U.S. before December 31, 2011, thereby creating extensive opportunity for fraud. In fact, even in the case of an immigrant who has previously been deported, and then reenters the country illegally after December 31, 2011, the Secretary may still allow application for amnesty. So, too, would illegal immigrants who are granted blue-card status under the Agricultural Worker Program of 2013 not be prosecuted for any Social Security fraud committed while they were in the country illegally, including falsifying documentation or claiming benefits fraudulently. American citizens committing the same acts are subject to fines and imprisonment for up to five years.

The Senate bill grants unprecedented discretionary and regulatory powers over immigration to the Department of Homeland Security.

Other sections of the legislation also require that applicants for RPI status or adjustment from RPI to LPR status demonstrate an income above 100 percent or 125 percent of the federal poverty line, respectively. To get around proving that they are above the given poverty threshold, however, applicants need only show that they are not “likely to become a public charge.” Like the condition for physical presence, no requirements are offered for proving that one will not become a public charge. Inadmissibility of immigrants who are likely to become a public charge is, in fact, a long-standing feature of American immigration law, but it is virtually never enforced.

7. Fails on Lawful Immigration Reform

In addition to being extremely costly to the American people, amnesty and the provisions of S. 744 are not fair to all those who have come, or seek to come, here legally. Today, there are approximately 40 million immigrants within the United States, making up nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population, and millions more arrive each year. For many, going through the legal immigration system is a difficult and time-consuming process; many wait years or even decades to receive a visa to the U.S. In fact, an estimated 4.4 million individuals are currently in line to come through the U.S. immigration system, some waiting 24 years.

The current immigration system is slow and overly complex, yet, rather than address these problems, S. 744 would thrust millions of additional people on the system by granting amnesty to those who are in the U.S. unlawfully, and unrealistically requiring USCIS to first clear the backlog of those waiting to enter the country. While clearing the backlog is certainly a laudable goal, without real reform to USCIS, arbitrary mandates to clear the backlog are only likely to overwhelm the system. Not only that, but if S. 744 were to pass, the political pressure to proceed with amnesty would be so great that one must wonder whether the promise of not allowing illegal immigrants to jump the line in front of those trying to come here legally will be kept.

Indeed, while the bill seeks to take some laudable steps to reform the legal system, such as expanding the Visa Waiver Program and abolishing the diversity lottery, overall it fails to make the type of meaningful reforms necessary. Not only does it do nothing to strengthen the response and capacity of USCIS, it would make the legal immigration system more convoluted.

One prime example is the H-1B program, which the bill would make virtually unworkable. H-1B visas allow U.S. companies to hire highly educated foreign workers for occupations requiring specialized skills and knowledge. Employers must pay H-1B workers the “prevailing wage” and certify that their employment will not adversely affect other employees. This allows companies to expand and create more jobs for American workers as well. Section 4211 of the bill, however, guts the H-1B program by imposing heavy new restrictions, and additional amendments could make it even worse. It would also, among other things, force employers to pay higher wages to most H-1B employees than to U.S. workers. Forcing businesses to pay H-1B workers above-market wages is bad enough. The other restrictions would create a bureaucratic nightmare for employers, putting them in legal jeopardy.

Another prime example is the “merit-based” visa system that would be created by the bill. Rather than simply streamlining and fixing the current two-track visa system, the bill creates a third track, a complicated and confusing points system with nearly 30 different categories of consideration. So, too, does the bill complicate the existing family and employment based systems, with new waivers, fees, and requirements. Any true attempt at meaningful immigration reform should make it easier, not harder and more costly, for individuals to come here legally.  This is one area where everyone should agree.

So what do you think of the bill so far?

Part 3 ~ coming soon..

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