April 19, 2006

Immigration Update

Carroll Andrew Morse

In yesterday's National Review Online, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama gave a detailed list of his concerns about the Hagel-Martinez immigration compromise currently before the US Senate.

Hagel-Martinez would break illegal immigrants presently in the US into three groups. Illegal immigrants who have been in the US for more than 5 years would be immediately eligible to pay for amnesty with back taxes and fines. Illegal immigrants who have been in the US for between 2 and 5 years would be able to enter the pay-for-amnesty program after returning to a valid point of entry into the US. Illegal immigrants who have been in the US for less than 2 years would be eligible to become "guest workers". The defining characterisctic of "guest workers" versus other categories of non-citizens legally in America is that "guest workers" are only allowed to stay in the US for as long as they are employed.

Among other concerns, Senator Sessions has qualms about the details of the guest worker program (officially referred to as the "essential worker visa program”)...

  • Illegal aliens who do not qualify for the mass amnesty (because they have been here for less than two years) can qualify for the bill's new low-skilled "essential worker" program without ever leaving the U.S. In other words, no illegal alien will be left behind.

  • New "essential workers" do not have to be "essential" to stay in the United States. Once here, an alien simply can not be unemployed for "60 or more consecutive days." Therefore, "essential" workers have a legal right to remain in the U.S. if they are working as little as one or two days out of every two months.

  • The "essential worker" program is not a temporary-worker program. The bill contains no economic trigger allowing workers to be sent home when the U.S. economy dips. Because these workers are eligible for green cards as soon as they enter the United States, once they are here, they will not have to ever leave, and, possessors of green cards are on a direct path to citizenship.

  • The "essential worker" program is essentially uncapped. The 325,000 annual numerical cap automatically adjusts each time the cap is reached, providing 65,000 additional visas in the first year, and an additional 20-percent increase the next year. An additional 3.9 million low-skilled workers could enter the U.S. in the first 6 years. All will be eligible for green cards.
Senate Minority leader Harry Reid refused to allow amendments addressing Senator Sessions' concerns to be voted on.

At the end of the article, Senator Sessions provided an overview of his immigration philosophy...

If the Senate wants to be successful in passing immigration reform, its first priority should be to approve a bill to secure the borders and increase interior-enforcement infrastructure. Then we can move on to discussions about fair and humane treatment of the illegal-alien population and the future flow of immigrants across our borders.
According to a series of Rasmussen polls released this month, the Senator is where most of America is. A poll released on April 1 found overwhelming support for the position of securing the borders before deciding on a policy towards the illegal immigrants currently in the US...
Before debating new laws, first control borders/enforce existing laws.
  • Agree 66%
  • Disagree 21%
Another Rasmussen poll released on April 11 showed a growing public preference for the Republican party’s handling of immigration issues...
In a political season when most of the news has been bad for Republicans, the Congressional debate over immigration has produced a bit of movement in favor of the GOP.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national opinion survey found that 37% of Americans now trust Republicans more than Democrats on the issue of immigration. Just 31% trust the Democrats more.

In late March, the two parties were perceived equally on the topic, with 38% favoring the GOP and 37% preferring the Democrats.

Finally, Senator Sessions brought up an issue that should be of special concern to any fiscal conservatives and/or deficit hawks involved with immigration policy...
Cost: The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill will increase the deficit by $29 billion in just five years and more than that in the years to come.
Will Senators who voted in favor of this year’s PAYGO proposal also demand that the immigration bill be made budget neutral?

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"Our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually."

Senator Edward Kennedy, during debate of the Immigration Act of 1965

Posted by: :Aldo " Palazzo at April 19, 2006 2:05 PM