immigration reform is necessary, but it
will succeed only if it enhances national security, promotes
economic growth, and protects freedom and liberty. The only
practical solution is a comprehensive plan that addresses internal
enforcement of immigration laws, the origins of illegal migration,
and border security. The Secure America and Orderly immigration Act
(S. 1033) introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Edward
Kennedy (D-MA) does not achieve these ends.
Any comprehensive immigration reform
program must encourage individuals to use lawful means to enter and
reside in the United States. At the same time, it must effectively
combat human smuggling, illegal border crossing, the use of
falsified or stolen documents, and benefits fraud.
McCain-Kennedy would establish a worker visa
program that would allow employers to temporarily hire foreign
citizens to fill jobs that cannot be filled with U.S. laborers.
That is not a bad idea. However, the act proposes to allow
individuals unlawfully here to stay and sign up for the program by
paying a $1,500 fine. That is a bad idea. It is, in effect, an
amnesty--which undercuts the rule of law by rewarding those who
have acted wrongly and will only encourage further illegal entry.
Effective internal enforcement must deter further illegal entry.
Any effective deterrent must require individuals to leave and apply
for admission without prejudice or advantage.
A successful worker visa program must also
have an infrastructure to process applicants and quickly remove
those illegally present, particularly any who pose a security
safety risk. Processes must be in place before the program begins;
otherwise, the millions vying for new benefits will overwhelm a
system that is still struggling to reduce the backlog of visa
applicants. The immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 created
just this problem, generating 3.5 million applications. The backlog
prompted an effort to reduce it at the expense of security vetting.
Three known terrorists used these programs to stay in the United
McCain-Kennedy does not include safeguards
to ensure that the essential visa worker program will be properly
executed. The law must require that the program be automated;
integrated with related law enforcement, security, and immigration
systems; and that the infrastructure be in place before--not
after--the program is implemented.
The bill also fails to adequately enhance
detention and removal. The law should require making the current
system work more efficiently, rather than just adding bed space or
reimbursing states for the costs of incarcerating illegal aliens.
For example, Congress could increase capacity by quadrupling the
speed of the process. That would increase detention capacity
fourfold without building anything or reimbursing anyone. In
addition, the law should require that key security screening steps
occur at the beginning of the application process.
Finally, the bill does not appropriately
engage state and local law officials in immigration enforcement.
Model programs already exist in Florida and Alabama, instituted
under section 287(G) of the immigration and Naturalization Act. The
pro-grams train selected state and local law officers to assist in
immigration investigations and provide federal oversight and
liability protection. The law should require the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) to seek out other states to participate in
Origins of Illegal Entry
The bill does correctly emphasize the importance of
obtaining cooperation from countries that are the sources and
transit points for illegal entry. Every year individuals in the
U.S. send over $40 billion in remittances to their home countries.
Currently, little of this money goes toward promoting economic
development in Latin America. The U.S. can encourage cooperation by
developing bilateral solutions, such as tax and investment
programs, that make it much more advantageous for states to have
remittances come from individuals lawfully present in the U.S.
On the Border
Enhanced border security and good immigration
policies go hand in hand. Former immigration and Naturalization
Service Commissioner Doris Meissner observed that the largest U.S.
temporary worker program, which operated from 1942 to 1964,
suffered from lax enforcement. The "lasting effect of [this]
program has been that it spawned and institutionalized networks and
labor market relationship between Mexico and the United States.
These ties...became the foundation for today's illegal migration
from Mexico." Ignoring the problem again by implementing reform
without a solid strategy for border security and the necessary
resources is unacceptable.
While McCain-Kennedy mandates a national
border security strategy, it would require DHS to do little more
than document efforts underway. Congress needs to establish clear
priorities and invest in resources that create a system-of-systems
approach to security. Rather than trying to control the entire
border, the United States requires a network of assets that direct
the right capabilities to the right places at the right times to
provide appropriate responses. The network would provide knowledge
of activities at sea and along the border, as well as the means to
analyze and share that knowledge effectively.
The Way Ahead
Although the Secure America and Orderly immigration
Act sets the right framework, it fails in the details. Congress
needs a better bill, which:
Does not grant amnesty to
infrastructure to properly implement a guest worker program,
enforcement of immigration laws,
Effectively engages the
cooperation of states in Latin America, and
Requires an effective
border control strategy.
A bill that achieves these ends will go a
long way toward meeting the national priorities of enhancing
security, promoting economic growth, and preserving liberty.
Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National
Security and Homeland Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom
Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage
Foundation. Janice L. Kephart is a former counsel to the September
11 Commission. Paul Rosenzweig is Senior Legal Research Fellow in
the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage