Coming Next: A Senate Deal On Immigration

The Senate looks like it's about ready to take up a bipartisan immigration reform package.

\border-illegal-aliens-flag

There has been an uncharacteristic amount of action going on in Congress this year. In addition to moving forward on a Gun Control bill that includes a bipartisan compromise deal on background checks, it looks like there’s been significant movement on the immigration front as well:

The Senate’s immigration Gang of Eight plans to announce a deal within a week but a committee markup is not expected until at least the week of May 6, providing a long period for debate and changes, Senate aides said Tuesday.

Aides said the legislative proposal could be released as soon as Thursday, but is more likely to be ready early next week. The schedule outlined by the aides is meant to satisfy Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has said repeatedly that he wants a full debate and amendment process, to maximize the chances that the final vote is an overwhelming majority.

A Senate aide told POLITICO: “The senators had a good discussion with [Judiciary Committee] Chairman [Patrick] Leahy this afternoon. We are optimistic that we will be able to introduce legislation soon. Chairman Leahy has agreed to hold a hearing as soon as possible after the legislation is introduced, and has promised to have unlimited debate and amendments during the committee markup.

“Assuming Republican members push for as much time as possible, the committee debate will last through the next recess, giving plenty of time for public debate and review,” the aide added.

The Wall Street Journal has some of the details:

Immigrants in the U.S. illegally would not gain green cards under a bipartisan Senate bill until law-enforcement officials are monitoring the entire southern border and stopping 90% of people crossing illegally in certain areas, according to people familiar with the plan.

The border-security proposal, part of a broader immigration bill being written by eight senators, sets several goals that would have to be met before any of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally could apply for permanent legal residency, also known as a green card, according to the people familiar with the Senate talks. Meeting all the goals is expected to take 10 years.

In a major change for businesses, all employers would be required after a five-year phase-in period to use the government’s E-Verify system, which screens for illegal workers. E-Verify now is largely voluntary, though some states require it. Some 409,000 employers had enrolled in the program as of last year, the federal government says, a tiny fraction of the estimated six million private U.S. employers, many of which have only a handful of employees.

Along the U.S.-Mexican border, 100% of the border would have to be under surveillance, and law enforcement would have to catch 90% of those who cross the border illegally at “high risk” sections—a term that people following the Senate talks did not define. In 2010, the Department of Homeland Security reported that only 44% of the border was under operational control, meaning officials had the ability to detect and block illegal activity there.

In addition, the government would have to create an electronic system to monitor everyone who exits from the U.S. through airports or seaports, in an attempt to identify people overstaying their visas. People who overstay visas account for a large share of illegal immigrants, as much as 40% by some estimates.

Once all of those measures are met, immigrants could begin qualifying for green cards. In the meantime, the legislation would grant probationary status to illegal immigrants who passed a criminal-background check, paid a fine and met other conditions. The legislation, which would also set special rules for agricultural workers, is not fully drafted and has not yet been released publicly.

Setting tougher border-security measures as a prerequisite to offering legal status to illegal immigrants could ease the way for many lawmakers, particularly Republicans, to support the immigration-law overhaul. Many Republicans have said the border must be secure before they would consider any change in the status of illegal immigrants.

There are some major differences between this proposal and the one that Rand Paul announced several weeks ago. The most notable is the fact that this plan would require pretty much all employers in the country to sign on to an electronic system to verify that the people they hire are eligible to work. Today, all they are required to do is have each employee sign off on an I-9 form wherein they verify this information. The extent to which any of it is actually ever checked remains unclear. Personally, I’m of two minds about E-Verify. On the one hand, I recognize that it is a potentially powerful weapon in cutting down on own of the major attractions of illegal immigration, employment. If it becomes virtually impossible for someone who isn’t here legally to get a job, that’s going to be a strong disincentive to illegal immigration. On the other hand, a system like this imposes costs upon businesses and has the potential to become a serious privacy concern for all Americans. Finally, there’s the point that even under an E-Verify system, it’s entirely possible for people to operate on a strictly off-the-books basis. Indeed, that’s likely how many of the industries that hire illegal immigrants, such as construction, have been operating for quite some time. These transactions are difficult if not impossible to track since they are all conducted on a cash basis.

This plan is similar to the Paul proposal,though, in that it mandates that there can be move toward Permanent Residency for the people currently here illegally until progress has been made on border security. The difference is that it appears that the triggers in this plan are less stringent than the Paul proposal, and they do not require explicit Congressional approval to move forward as his plan does. As I’ve noted before, I think that the entire idea of “border security” is amorphous and I worry that any law that places explicit benchmarks on it before further reforms can be adopted will just be a recipe for ensuring that nothing really gets done. That said, it is a political reality that nothing will get done on immigration reform without Republican votes, and Republicans aren’t going to vote for a bill that doesn’t address border security in what they believe to be a serious manner. If these conditions are the price of getting a deal done, then I really don’t see a problem with them,

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hello World! says:

    LOL…I thought that headline was the caption contest winner.

  2. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Does this phantom bill get through the House, assuming it actually clears the Senate? It seems over the past couple of weeks the chattering classes have forgotten there are two chambers in Congress, not just one of them.

    In any event, and assuming the media’s description of the bill is accurate:

    – Conditioning the guest worker program on specific border enforcement markers is a self-defeating and, well, bluntly, a dumb idea. That’s another way for saying we won’t get the guest worker program, which is the heart of the whole matter.

    – Mandatory e-Verify has mission creep and laws of unintended and unwanted consequences written all over it. Bad idea.

    – We need utterly draconian criminal, quasi-criminal and civil sactions against employers who post-amnesty deign to continue to use black market labor. Having the 5-employee Hallmark store in New Hampshire fully in compliance but the 25-employee construction contractor in Los Angeles still paying illegal labor off and under the books doesn’t really help us all that much. Post-safe harbor period for amnesty we need to beat down willful employers of illegal labor so hard that it sinks through their skulls. We need the laws in place (e.g., automatic forefeitures of all licenses, colossal fines, mandatory jail terms, etc.), the money to enforce them, and the political will to engage in such enforcement. Otherwise this entire endeavor will in 10-20 or so years prove to be very much like the Reagan-Kennedy failure from the 1980’s.

  3. rudderpedals says:

    In addition, the government would have to create an electronic system to monitor everyone who exits from the U.S. through airports or seaports, in an attempt to identify people overstaying their visas.

    This was a high priority recommendation from the 9/11 commission because IIRC no one was even trying to keep track of visa holders leaving the country. It’s sad it still remains to be done.

  4. superdestroyer says:

    Any immigration law must allow for citizen lawsuits to force the government to comply. Any Republican who makes a deal with Democrats based on the promise that the Democrats will comply with the law in the future is a fool. Look at how the Democrats refused to comply with DOMA. They will do the same with any immigration law unless the law allows individual citizens to sue the government and Department Secretaries that refuse to comply.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Immigrants in the U.S. illegally would not gain green cards under a bipartisan Senate bill until law-enforcement officials are monitoring the entire southern border and stopping 90% of people crossing illegally in certain areas, according to people familiar with the plan.

    ??????????????????????

    This is bogus BS. How in Dog’s name can they accurately measure how many illegals are crossing the border? And if they could, would that not be prima facie evidence that they are letting 10% through? How stupid does the GOP think we are?

    @superdestroyer:

    Look at how the Democrats refused to comply with DOMA.

    Sigh…. And then in answer to my question comes SD to prove them right….. Sigh.

  6. Barry says:

    Doug: “…On the other hand, a system like this imposes costs upon businesses and has the potential to become a serious privacy concern for all Americans. ”

    Potential? It would immediately create a single, easily searched and mined employment database for all people working legally in the country.

  7. Rob in CT says:

    In a major change for businesses, all employers would be required after a five-year phase-in period to use the government’s E-Verify system, which screens for illegal workers. E-Verify now is largely voluntary, though some states require it. Some 409,000 employers had enrolled in the program as of last year, the federal government says, a tiny fraction of the estimated six million private U.S. employers, many of which have only a handful of employees

    This sounds sensible to me. I’m curious to see if it will work (provided this happens).

    Personally, I’m of two minds about E-Verify. On the one hand, I recognize that it is a potentially powerful weapon in cutting down on own of the major attractions of illegal immigration, employment. If it becomes virtually impossible for someone who isn’t here legally to get a job, that’s going to be a strong disincentive to illegal immigration. On the other hand, a system like this imposes costs upon businesses and has the potential to become a serious privacy concern for all Americans.

    Agreed. Cost vs. benefit. Liberty vs. Security. Choices are, like, hard and stuff.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    Yeah Superdope…they didn’t enforce those other bigoted laws…we can’t trust them to enforce this bogoted law…they are without morals…oh…wait…er……

  9. socraticsilence says:

    @superdestroyer:

    You want to allow individual citizens to sue the government to force them to enforce laws? You do realize that this would lead to suit after to suit by gun control groups until a crackdown on firearms ensues right?

  10. superdestroyer says:

    @socraticsilence:
    Citizen lawsuits are common in environmental laws because activist suspected that when politicians would not be eager to enforce the law http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_suit.

    The same logic applies to all immigration laws. The only way to ensure that politicians follow the immigration laws that the are passing it to put administrators and the executive branch. When conservatives pass any legislation that does not include citizen lawsuit, they are giving liberals the ability to ignore the law in the future.