After running a campaign focused almost entirely on immigration reform, Brian Bilbray was elected to Congress last week.
The results have emboldened his new colleagues. Once-cautious Congressmen in vulnerable seats now seem comfortable running for re-election on the enforcement-only House bill that passed last December. Top news from Google as I write this: House Stalls Immigration Reform, Compromise Bill Not Likely Before November Elections (by Gil Kaufman, MTV.COM, 6/21/06).
But the threat of bad immigration policy still looms large.
Beware the Compromise!!
Our attention must now turn to the Pence Ploy—the alleged "compromise" miraculously proposed at the last minute by Congressman Mike Pence and widely whooped-up as a way of outflanking immigration patriots in the House.
It's finally available (DISCUSSION DRAFT, in PDF) and I have read its 300 or so pages—something no MSM types will do.
Before I begin, let me make something clear:
Amnesty is the absence of punishment, not the presence of reward.
Any immigration bill is absolutely an amnesty bill unless it sends back home the millions of illegal aliens in the United States today.
To deny them "a clear path to citizenship" is not a punishment—anymore than not giving your children cookies when they bite you.
Punishment is more like…well, beating them without mercy—the kids, not the illegal immigrants…actually, I'll have to think about that one.
Speaking of the Pence Ploy…
I have decided that my assessment of the Senate immigration bill was wrong.
The McKennedy bill is not the worst piece of legislation I have ever seen…the Pence Ploy wins that title.
Don't misunderstand me, the Kennedy-Bush-McCain bill is definitely the evil spawn of an unholy alliance. But it makes no attempt to conceal that fact.
On the other hand, Congressman Pence is a well-liked man with impeccable conservative credentials…many of his colleagues will not feel compelled to read the contents of his bill before supporting it.
But, while the Pence Plan has been touted as compromise, upon a closer look, it is not.
As a political consultant and aide, I have read more of these legal doohickeys than any sane person could endure. And let me tell you, this one is long and complicated.
This legislation would reorganize our entire immigration system and require the restructuring of several government agencies:
Okay, basically all of them.
Additionally, it creates an entirely new private sector industry and provides for all the bureaucratic hoopla that goes with such an undertaking.
In other words, this legislation was not a quick response to Congressional crisis…it was well-planned and long in the making.
The Pence bill is so complex it will take two (2) columns for me to properly convey the problems with it.
For today, we will focus on the biggies:
Mike Pence has said repeatedly that his bill puts border security first. In his op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, he wrote
"[the bill would]…require the Secretary of Homeland Security to certify that all these border security measures are substantially completed before any new guest worker program would begin." [A Middle Ground on Immigration, June 11, 2006]
His bill does say border security measures have to be "substantially completed". But, tellingly, it does not provide a definition of what that means.
So the HS Secretary could certify any absurd thing. How absurd? Well, the Bush Administration already says it's acted to secure the border.
(Yeah, and my driver's license says I weigh 125 lbs…)
After securing the border, Pence says he wants to implement a temporary guest worker program that is not tantamount to amnesty.
Pence kindly defined amnesty in his speech at the Heritage Foundation—before the bill text was released. He said:
"Allowing 12 million illegal aliens to stay in our country instead of leaving and coming back legally is amnesty, no matter if fines or back taxes are paid, or how it is otherwise dressed up or spun by its proponents. The only way to deal with these 12 million people is to insist that they leave the country and come back legally if there's a willing employer waiting in this country to put them to work."
But the Pence Plan does not accomplish this—not by a long shot—and I'll tell you why:
From what I read, the Pence "leave the country for a week and we'll give you a visa" ploy is symbolic at best and deceptive at worst.
These are some of the major loopholes and/or drawbacks:
(This is very telling—importing dependants totally destroys any economic rationale for guestworkers, since spouses and children impose major health, education and welfare costs on American taxpayers. It makes it clear that Pence's objective is to compel American taxpayers to subsidize business' remuneration of its workers.)
To recap: Three things to remember—if you remember nothing else:
The Pence Plan does not reform welfare subsidies to illegals—in fact, welfare benefits will increase in tandem with our immigrant population.
In fact, Pence actually contains language specifying that this must be the case—another reason that makes me doubt conservatives wrote this bill.
Here it is, in black and white:
"For purposes of title IV of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, a nonimmigrant having status under section 101(a)(15)(W) of the Immigration and Nationality Act shall be treated as any other nonimmigrant granted status under such Act."
Sorry, a little jargon there but loosely translated, nothing changes—all the welfare benefits currently enjoyed by illegal aliens will continue.
All of the new "temporary workers" get them as well.
And that's it…that's the Pence program.
Mike Pence is relying solely on employer sanctions to solve the problem. His theory sounds like this:
1. If we fine the employer for hiring illegal aliens, they will only hire foreign workers through the Ellis Island Centers.
2. If the illegal aliens do not enroll in the temporary worker program, they will be unable to find work and consequently leave the country.
As for stopping future illegal immigration, Mike Pence is relying on increased penalties for immigrant smugglers…no, I'm not joking.
But those are the topics for my next column!
The Pence Plan is just the latest example of Washington not taking this issue seriously, But I'm no longer worried about it.
It's clear that Small Town, USA is giving up on the feds and starting to take matters into its own hands.
For example: The City Council of Hazelton, Pennsylvania just voted to revoke the licenses of businesses that hire illegal aliens. Additionally, they will impose a $1000 fine for any landlord who rents property to illegal aliens. [Pa. city poised for immigration crackdown, By MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press, June 19, 2006]
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there were more than 500 immigration reform bills introduced in 2006.
So quit making it difficult, Congress!!
Eliminate the incentives!!
Bryanna Bevens [email her] is a political consultant and former chief of staff for a member of the California State Assembly.