The current round of legislative antics taking place in the United States Senate in relation to comprehensive immigration reform should be considered an insult to American citizens and all those who reside legally within our borders. There are many things about which one should object to in the current legislation, but the most egregious aspect is that the leadership in the Senate is asking all Americans to turn a blind eye to the rule of law.
Throughout this nation’s history, the rule of law has been a fundamental American value. This legislation offers amnesty–the forgiveness of criminal behavior–for millions of individuals who entered this country illegally or who have overstayed their allotted time here. To allow someone to eventually achieve citizenship through illegal acts flies in the face of the most fundamental understanding of common and public law.
If we have learned nothing, we should take heed of the lessons of the aftermath of the passage and implementation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. First, more than twice as many illegal immigrants came forth for amnesty than were estimated by Congress before passage. Second, as many as 70% of those who were registered were found to have used false identities to gain access to public programs and employment. Third, after three years, funds dried up for English language training, border enforcement and workplace enforcement. Out of this legislation came the I-9 system that has so many loop-holes as to render the system relatively useless in assisting employers in guarding against employing illegal immigrants. Finally, the full effects of chain migration were felt in labor economics. As the nation vaulted into yet another burst of technical expansion, where educational attainment became the coin of the realm, those entering the country illegally–by the hundreds of thousands–lacked language skills, work skills or the education to compete in the labor force. Worse, these very individuals were exploited by greedy employers who cherished the cheap labor that could be paid off the books.
Today, we have four times as many illegal immigrants in the country as we did in 1986. This current bill fails to address the most important feature of a reasonable immigration plan and that is border security. A promise to secure the border is not securing the border. As the first responsibility of the national government is to provide security for its citizens, it seems creating an open border environment is a betrayal of the first order.
One other feature of the bill that no one is talking about relates to whether or not illegal immigrants, once registered, will be given access to the 80 or so means tested public assistance programs if they qualify. The rhetoric from the Senate is such that one is not sure. In any event, once enforcement dollars dry up, there will be no safeguards to prevent as many as 10 million new recipients of public assistance. The Congress could care less, because the costs for enrolling these millions of new recipients will fall mostly on state and local governments. Currently, illegal immigration costs these jurisdictions some $110 billion a year. Overnight, that cost will triple to over $300 billion a year. This may be the mother of all unfunded mandates.
Immigration reform is necessary and should be undertaken deliberately and intentionally. However, it should be done in phases with border security at the very top of the priority list. To do otherwise is to betray the American people. Senator Sessions (R-AL) has it right. What does this bill do for the other 300 million people who live in this country lawfully? Nothing. In fact, it punishes them with more burdensome government and more people entering the permanent underclass. This is not only irresponsible, it is immoral.
Rest assured, when I am elected the next Senator from the State of Iowa, will ensure that we do all we can to reform immigration, but I lead the way in doing so in a responsible, compassionate manner.