Senate Math: It's fuzzy

COMMENTARY Immigration

Senate Math: It's fuzzy

Jun 26th, 2007 3 min read

Former Distinguished Fellow

Ernest served as a Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

The Senate's latest immigration proposal is another sad sign that Washington needs some remedial math classes. Not only does the amnesty bill defy common sense, but its numbers just don't add up.

Let's start with the bill's pretense that the government can conduct background checks on some 12-million amnesty applicants -- within the 24-hour turnaround time guaranteed for each applicant. This is the same federal bureaucracy that can't meet a three-month deadline for processing passports for its own citizens. The Senate bill would have us believe that the government's already-overworked immigration processors would be able to review and clear 12 million applications in a year's time -- that's 48,000 every workday!

The bill's sponsors also played fast and loose with figures when Senator Ted Kennedy and others called a Capitol Hill press conference to show off 310 boxes that they claimed were filled with letters from "a million" amnesty supporters. While the Senators posed for their photo-op, one photographer actually looked inside the boxes - -and found that almost all were empty.

Funny numbers aren't always so funny. After the Heritage Foundation reported that the amnesty bill would cost the country $2.6 trillion, the White House issued a report from its Council of Economic Advisers claiming that modern immigration is a net economic boost "in the long run." What's the long run to them? Only 300 years! (A somewhat longer time than what Heritage considered.) To reach their Pollyanna conclusion, the CEA had to intermix the benefits of legal immigration to offset the detrimental impact of illegal immigration.

Trying to make us think that they're serious about scofflaws, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency last week reported progress in tracking down the 630,000 illegals who remain in this country despite court orders requiring them to leave. It's a huge number, ICE admitted, but don't fret. The agency has the situation in hand because (drum roll please) its beefed-up enforcement effort has reduced the number of absconders at-large by 500 in the last couple of months. Only 625,500 to go! At a rate of 500 each month, they'll finish the job in only 105 years more!

Then there's the border fence. As Congressman Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.) described the already-existing dictate: "854 miles of double border fence was mandated to be constructed. Homeland Security has a billion bucks, cash on hand. It's been six months, and they've done 11 miles." The proposed bill would shorten the fence to only 370 miles. Whether it's the fence or beefing up the border patrol and detention facilities, the new bill mostly reiterates the requirements and funding already passed in last year's Secure Fence Act, but pretends that it's something new.

Amnesty supporters claim the bill will solve the problem of illegal immigration. But the numbers don't back them up. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill will reduce the flow of illegal immigrants by only a quarter, at best. Moreover, the CBO analysis found the bill's guest-worker program would quickly attract another one million illegal aliens within a decade -- half of them right away.

Numbers games and charades are no substitute for commitment -- and that's been the problem.

We haven't been serious enough for long enough. For years, while some in Congress pushed for the border fence, employer enforcement, more border agents, and more heartland agents, others in Washington were pushing to expand multilingual election ballots, sanctuary cities that don't report illegals, non-reporting by schools dominated by students who don't know English, plus food stamps, public housing, and other benefits for illegals.

Only when those here illegally can get neither jobs nor public benefits will they decide on their own that it's time to leave (perhaps helped by some privately funded return programs). But those who have been encouraging illegal immigration want the rest of us to concede the fight, declare amnesty and make sure no one goes home.

It would be fuzzy thinking, indeed, if we trusted those who created this mess to "solve" it. Their goal never has been improved national security. Rather, they pursue a utopian vision of the U.S. as a no-borders, globalist nation.

The bill fails other subjects than math -- especially English. Behind a facade of honoring English as our national language, the details bolster multilingualism, not only perpetuating multilingual ballots, but also forcing businesses to provide translators at their own expense.

The good news is that most Americans haven't been fooled. They see right through the false claims that this bill isn't amnesty. At least we're getting a passing grade in vocabulary.

You don't have to be smarter than a fifth grader to oppose this bill.

Ernest Istook, a former congressman who served on the Select Committee on Homeland Security, is a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation

First appeared in National Review Online