Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss deserve some credit for striving to make a terrible immigration proposal crafted by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., far better. It is definitely superior to Senate legislation that stalled last year. Unfortunately for the Georgia lawmakers, the lesser of two evils is still evil.
Isakson’s border security-first “triggers”, rejected last year, are a necessary predicate to the Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007. They attempt to require that border security measures be operative before other provisions are triggered, such as importing 200,000 new low-skilled foreign workers and issuing limitless and renewable Z visas to some 20 million here illegally. Yet, if you read the fine print, those triggers can be overridden.
Section 1(a) allows provisional Z visas to be issued immediately after enactment and Section 601(f)(2) bars the government from waiting more than 180 days after enactment to begin issuing Z visas. As Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., laments, “A few senators and the administration have crafted a large-scale, get-out-of-jail free pass.” And Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, warns “if you reward illegality, you get more of it.”
Desperate for a bipartisan “immigration reform” legacy, President George W. Bush – in an Orwellian twist in his May 29 Georgia speech – says opponents “don’t want to do what’s right for America.” Just the opposite is true. Opponents are sounding a Paul Revere-like warning that the sweeping amnesty, along with importing more low-skilled foreign workers and spouses, will cripple law enforcement and undermine the rule of law. Columnist George Will points out we will “import poverty,” and thus fuel a new underclass with the potential to expand indefinitely.
Consider the bill’s worst provisions:
Title VI grants immediate amnesty through the Z visa and there is no limit on the number to be doled out. The ‘fine’ is $3,000 per person- the going rate to hire a smuggler for a southwestern border crossing. A family of five can purchase visas for $5,000 – $20,000 short of the net cost that household is likely to impose on local, state and federal government annually according to Heritage Foundation data. Senator Grassley is right: Expect a huge surge of illegals to come now. This bill with its 12-month period for accepting Z visa applications is an open invitation for anyone to sneak in and present two fake documents indicating they were here Jan. 1 2007. (Such an influx occurred after the 1986 congressional amnesty.)
The Title VI amnesty extends to those ordered deported by an immigration judge but who are evading the order. The Heritage Foundation estimates there are over 636,000 such fugitives in the country and they qualify if departure would result in “extreme hardship.” That’s a massive loophole. Bleeding heart lawyers will argue that virtually anything constitutes “extreme hardship.” By the way, why would an alien criminal obey a deportation order while this bill is pending?
Members of violent gangs are rewarded with amnesty under Section 602(g)(2). There are over 30,000 criminal gang members in 30 states and their deportation has been a top priority. Now a gang member can simply sign a “renunciation of gang affiliation” to obtain amnesty. What a cruel joke!
Section 616 allows colleges to offer in-state tuition and other benefits to anyone with a Z visa. A staggering number of competitive slots that would otherwise go to citizens or others here legally will be surrendered.
A final insult is that Section 622(m) allows millions of illegal agricultural workers to receive free legal services. They will be able to argue their case in immigration court at taxpayer expense.
Isakson and Chambliss have indicated they still could vote no, especially if there is “amnesty.” Well, there is! So will they vote no? Indeed, if this bill is about border security and economic opportunity, then “security” and “opportunity” are words quite without meaning.
Phil Kent is an Atlanta author and national spokesman for Americans for Immigration Control.