The House and Senate will soon start hammering out the stark differences between their immigration reform proposals. The Senate bill would put undocumented workers in the United States on a path toward citizenship. But the House version, firmly supported by the Republican leadership, omits such a plan, which many in the GOP call "amnesty." It stresses enforcement.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, introduced the original House bill. As Judiciary Committee chair, he is expected to be the House's lead negotiator on the immigration bill. He spoke with U.S. News about how this is going to be a difficult bargaining session with big political implications.
Are you optimistic that a compromise can be reached?
This is the toughest thing that I have ever been asked to do in 27
Is there any part of the guest-worker plan or path to citizenship that you support?
I do not support anything that is an amnesty. The real problem with the Senate bill is that the people who would apply for amnesty would end up pricing themselves out of the market in many of the jobs that they currently hold. Amnesty is not going to be as successful as its supporters think because if someone legalizes themselves, then they end up paying Social Security taxes and state and federal securities, and increase their cost to their employer.
How do you define amnesty?
Amnesty is granting citizenship to an illegal immigrant that is currently in the country. It is very important if there is to be a compromise reached that the Senate back off amnesty. The way they have set it up is that it is an invitation to the same type of wholesale document fraud that occurred in Simpson-Mazzoli [an immigration bill passed during the Reagan administration]. It also has U.S. citizenship for sale for $3,250--which is the fine that the illegal immigrants would have to pay. And U.S. citizenship should never be for sale.
You sound pessimistic about a compromise.
It's going to be a heavy lift.... There has to be some flexibility involved. We have to learn why Simpson-Mazzoli failed to solve the problem. It failed to solve the problem because the employer sanctions were never enforced.
Will all the border security measures make it into the final bill?
It's hard to say. What I'm concerned about is that the Senate bill requires us to consult with Mexico before building any kind of a barrier. We are building a barrier to protect ourselves, and we shouldn't have to talk to any foreign government on it. It is important that we fund the additional Border Patrol agents rather than authorize a lot of them and never fund any of them.