The Senate Judiciary Committee has already held two hearings this week. The first was a nearly 8-hour long marathon with a parade of witnesses from Big Business to Big Labor to Special Interest groups. And there were a few that testified about the need for more interior enforcement, better border security, and the huge fiscal drain that an amnesty would have on the nation's future. Yesterday, the Committee brought in DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano who was first scheduled to appear before the Committee last week. Here's what we learned from the past few days . . .
Key points on bill
Number One: Every part of the bill was written as though America is facing a severe labor shortage crisis. The Senate Judiciary Hearing on Monday featured one industry spokesperson after another who testified that Americans from high-school drop outs to the laid off engineer were either too lazy or too uneducated to fill U.S. labor needs at the wages being offered. The only guarantees in the bill concern large increases in the pool of available foreign workers, including millions of illegal workers who receive amnesty.
The key for the Gang of Eight may be to make these millions of unemployed Americans disappear from the national consciousness long enough to pass their bill. They do face some hurdles. The African American Leadership Council hosted a press conference Wednesday morning to announce their opposition to the Senate bill on the grounds of economic justice for American workers. Peter Kirsanow, U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner and labor lawyer, also testified (on his own behalf) as to the giant pool of available American labor in the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing last Friday.
Number Two: The legalization comes first. There are no hard enforcement triggers for the initial amnesty (legalization + work permits). Chris Crane, ICE Officer and President of the National ICE Council testified to that on Monday. No one disputed that point and it has been reported in the press (Alan Gomez of USA Today reported "There are no measurements of border security that must be reached before the nation's unauthorized immigrants could apply to become legal residents," April 22, 2013).
The debate over whether there are real enforcement triggers before amnestied aliens can get green cards is largely beside the point because once they are legal and have work permits, almost all of the political pressure will be to grant them permanent green cards and eventual citizenship. The incentive for anti-enforcement groups to go along with improved enforcement disappears after the initial amnesty, which comes right at the beginning of the process, as soon as DHS Secretary Napolitano submits two plans to improve border security and fencing -- just plans.
Number Three: Sen. Schumer and company called Sen. Rubio's bluff: Back in January, Rubio promised, "If, in fact, this bill does not have real triggers in there...if there is not language in this bill that guarantees that nothing else will happen unless these enforcement mechanisms are in place, I wont support it."
See "Number Two" above. In an op-ed for Fox News this Tuesday, Rubio explained that he abandoned his enforcement-first pledge because it would leave illegal workers "unable to work."
Number Four: No one seems capable of explaining what will happen to future illegal aliens if the bill passes (see Roy Beck's op-ed in Fox News Latino).
The bill excludes post-December 31, 2011 illegal aliens. What happens to them? The bill also calls for expanded guest worker programs. What happens to the guest workers who don't go home when their work visa expires?
Will the administration ramp up interior enforcement to detect and remove illegal aliens not covered by the bill? Or will the administration adopt the "attrition through enforcement" approach both the White House and Gang of Eight have decried? Or will the bill preserve the status quo immigration enforcement that gives "prosecutorial discretion" to non-violent aliens unlawfully residing and working in the country, thus building up a new illegal population to be amnestied at a later date? The bill doesn't say. The bill's authors won't say.
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA