July 11, 2006

July 11, 2006 | Commentary on Immigration

Senate immigration bill

Twenty years ago, Congress passed immigration reform granting amnesty and citizenship to 3 million illegal immigrants. In exchange, future illegal immigration was to be stopped and employers were to be prohibited from hiring illegal workers. The deal was a debacle; amnesty was granted, but the hiring ban was ignored and the border was not secured.

Today, the U.S. Senate is proposing a similar deceptive immigration deal dubbed "enforcement first." Allegedly, the border will first be sealed. This will be then followed by another mass amnesty and, inevitably, a huge flood of new immigrants.

How can we know if "enforcement first" is real or cosmetic? There are many concrete ways to measure real enforcement against illegal immigration. For example, the government could require that the millions of illegal immigrants currently employed using false Social Security numbers are discharged. It could demand widespread enforcement of strict penalties against employers who hire illegal workers off the books. As opportunities for unlawful employment dry up, the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. would drop precipitously.

But the Senate will accept no such tough measures. Therefore, talk of "enforcement first" is hollow.

That is only one of many profound problems with the Senate plan. Giving some 10 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S. a path to citizenship is manifestly unfair to those who have waited to enter the country legally. Standards for this amnesty - and, yes, some won't call it amnesty, but that's what I believe it is - are porous and will result in millions of false amnesty applications.

By 4-to-1, voters prefer less immigration, not more. But the Senate bill would more than double future legal immigration, bringing an unprecedented 50 million new immigrants into the U.S. over the next two decades. Its so-called "temporary guest worker" program would, in fact, create countless additional permanent citizens.

The plan would be ruinous for taxpayers. The U.S. has already imported nearly 10 million high school dropouts from abroad in recent years. The Senate plan would bring in vastly more. They would pay little in taxes but would consume much in government services, imposing an average net cost to the taxpayers of nearly $100,000 apiece, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

The Senate's immigration plan deserves burial in a very deep grave.

Robert Rector is a Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Robert Rector
DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society

First appeared in the New York Daily News