April 27, 2006

Immigration Update

Carroll Andrew Morse

On Wednesday, the US Senate approved $1,900,000,000 in increased funding for border security (breakdown here). Two versions of the bill were proposed. One bill offset the new spending with a 2.8% cut from the Defense Department's supplemental appropriation, the other bill provided no offset. Senator Lincoln Chafee voted for the additional funding and the offsetting cut. Senator Jack Reed voted for additional funding, but no offsetting spending cut. Apparently, the Senate is aware of the polls showing that an overwhelming majority of the public believe that improving America's border security is a national priority.

Wedensday's votes were not on the "comprehensive" immigration bill that includes amnesty and guest worker programs as well as further border security enhancements; that bill is still before the Senate. At National Review Online, Senator Bill Frist's view of the comprehensive legislation is available here, Senator Jeff Sessions' less favorable view is available here.

There is a point-of-fact discrepancy between the articles by the two Senators. Senator Frist claims the current immigration bill before the Senate (the Hagel-Martinez compromise) would require immigrants who had been in the US for less than two years to return to their home country before entering a guest worker program. Senator Sessions says that the current legislation would not require immigrants here for less than two years to leave. It would be nice to know who's right.

Also in National Review Online, Newt Gingrich proposes a four-point plan for immigration reform...

First, control the borders with decisive legislation aggressively implemented with tight deadlines. Once we have stopped the illegal flow of people we will have demonstrated the seriousness necessary to gain both the credibility and the leverage needed to implement the next steps. Fortunately, a bipartisan consensus has emerged that securing the borders is indeed priority number one. Three national leaders have it right in their shared view that border control is the first step. Senator Frist is exactly right when he wrote recently that "to build confidence among Americans and Congress that the government takes border security seriously, we have to act to help get the border under control right now." Senator Clinton is also right when she recently recognized the need for a "smart fence" along the border to enhance security. And Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is also correct when he said last week that "the first thing we want is tough border control."
It's pretty clear now that some version of point 1, beyond what is provided for in the supplemental defense appropriation, is going to pass. If not, someone is going to pay dearly at the polls in November. Here are Gingrich's points 2 through 4...
Second, establish patriotic integration and the primacy of English (English first, not English only) combined with a requirement that Americans can only vote in American elections and applicants for citizenship have to select where their loyalty is.

Third, establish real enforcement against unlawful employment by employers and especially against employers who are breaking both immigration and taxation laws. Make clear that the dishonest hiring and tax evasion of the last two decades are over and there will be expensive penalties for people who break American immigration law. Insist that cities enforce the law or lose their federal funding. All this can be done with the right incentives and without rounding up anyone.

Fourth, establish an outsourced worker visa program with a biometric identity card, a background check, and a 24/7 computerized real time verification capability so no business can claim ignorance. Permit businesses to send workers home to apply for their worker visa as a deductible business expense. Eliminate the fly-by-night subcontractor shams that are clearly set up to evade the law. Maximize the opportunity and the incentives for people who are here to return home and become legal.

It is not clear if the organizers of the immigration demonstrations planned for next week are interested in any of these aspects of an immigration policy, or if they are interested solely in establishing as broad an amnesty program as possible.

These are the appropriations provided for in Senate Amendment 3594 passed on Wednesday...

$2,000,000 Office of the secretary and executive management, for a contract with an independent non-Federal entity to conduct a needs assessment for comprehensive border security
$50,000,000 Office of the chief information officer, to replace and upgrade law enforcement communications
$60,000,000 United States Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology, to accelerate biometric database integration and conversion to 10-print enrollment
$80,000,000 Customs and Border Protection, for border patrol vehicle replacement
$100,000,000 Customs and Border Protection, for sensor and surveillance technology
$790,000,000 To replace Customs and Border Protection air assets and upgrade air operations facilities
$120,000,000 For Customs and Border Protection Construction'
$80,000,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to replace vehicles
$600,000,000 United States Coast Guard, for acquisition, construction, renovation, and improvement of vessels, aircraft, and equipment
$18,000,000 For construction of the Federal law enforcement language training facility referenced in the Master Plan and information technology infrastructure improvements