By Robert Schlesinger |
The key political problem amnesty advocates face is a trust gap. The public, rightly, doesn't believe promises from the political class that they're newly committed to enforcing immigration laws after decades of non-enforcement.
One key provision of the Schumer/Rubio immigration bill tells you all you need to know about its phoniness. It requires the development within 10 years of a check-in/check-out system for foreign visitors. That's important because nearly half the illegal population came here legally but never left. Only if we record who leaves can we know who's still here illegally.
The completion of such a system is a so-called "trigger" or requirement that has to be satisfied before the formerly illegal aliens can upgrade from the "provisional" status they get right after the bill is signed to a full green card, which permits eventual citizenship.
The problem is this: Congress required the development of such an entry-exit system 17 years ago. In fact, the demand to complete the system has been reiterated by Congress a total of six times since the original requirement in 1996. Is the seventh time supposed to be the charm?
What's more, the new bill would actually water down the provision in existing law, which calls for implementing the check-in/check-out system at all crossing points. But the new bill requires it only at airports and seaports, even though the majority of foreign visitors come across our land borders. So the bill's required entry-exit system, even if it was completed, would be like that scene from the movie Blazing Saddles, where the cowboys lined up to go through a lonely toll booth in the desert – hardly an encouraging image of security.
Politicians need to earn the trust of the American people by actually keeping their past promises before making new ones. Once that happens, there actually might be a good deal of public support for amnesty for certain long-term, non-violent illegals who've put down roots here. But even debating such an amnesty is illegitimate until the public has reason to believe that any amnesty wouldn't just lay the groundwork for more amnesties in the future.
About Mark Krikorian Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies
Luis Alvarado Political Analyst for CNN Español and Telemundo
Tamar Jacoby Fellow at the New America Foundation
Lisa Garcia Bedolla Chair of the Center for Latino Policy Research