Debate Club

Senate Immigration Plan Recycles Failed Amnesty Attempts

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The Senate Gang of Eight immigration outline released Monday is essentially the same as the many previous bills on the subject—all rejected. It includes immediate legalization (amnesty) for illegal aliens plus essentially unlimited future immigration, in exchange for promises to implement enforcement measures that should have been in place long ago.

It cannot work because the enforcement promises are empty and insincere. There's little question that the 11 million illegals amnestied by such a law would just be replaced by another 11 million a few years down the road. And then the same politicians would tell us that we had to amnesty them, too.

Everything you need to know about the fakery of the Senate proposal's enforcement elements is in its call for "completion of an entry-exit system that tracks whether all persons entering the United States on temporary visas via airports and seaports have left the country as required by law."

That sounds good, because some 40 percent of the illegal population entered legally on visas and then never left. Fences and border agents are irrelevant to that mode of illegal immigration.

[See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]

The problem comes when you realize that Congress required the "completion of an entry-exit system" 17 years ago. It reiterated that demand five more times since. What, is the seventh time the charm? The government needs to keep its old promises before it makes new ones.

The Gang of Eight Senators behind the amnesty scheme know this, but are pushing forward anyway. That's because they know the enforcement promises are just "talking points" to give Republicans cover, as one amnesty advocate recently acknowledged.

A more sensible way to proceed would be to address specific problems with targeted legislation containing something for each side. This wouldn't result in 1,000-page bills that no congressman can read before voting, but smaller, understandable measures that would build confidence between the various sides.

[Read the U.S. News debate on building a fence on the U.S.-Mexican border.]

An example would be a focused DREAM Act-style measure, that gave amnesty to illegals who came here before, say, age 7, and have thus spent most of their childhood here, in exchange for making E-Verify, the online screening system for new hires, a universal part of the hiring process (it's voluntary right now). If each side kept its end of the deal, then lawmakers could look to a next step.

But "comprehensive immigration reform" is no more likely to work than any other gigantic piece of legislation filled with measures contrary to the national interest.

Mark Krikorian

About Mark Krikorian Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies

immigration reform

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Senate Plan Is Important First Step to Immigration Reform

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Marshall Fitz Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress

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Senate Plan Has Essential Outline for Immigration Reform
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Senate Immigration Plan Meets Several Important Objectives

Yes – Senate Immigration Plan Meets Several Important Objectives

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The Cost of the Senate's Immigration Plan Is Significant

No – The Cost of the Senate's Immigration Plan Is Significant

Rosemary Jenks Director of Government Relations at NumbersUSA

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