The Pence Plan—we need to talk about the Pence Plan because it's a ploy to divide House resistance to today's Senate immigration sell-out.
Watching the Senate debate immigration reform these past couple of months, I have learned a valuable lesson in protocol:
If one is to express an opposition to illegal immigration, one must first share one's own family immigrant story—especially if there is an element of hardship.
Apparently, the approved way to circumvent the anti-immigrant/racist rap is to establish your immigrant credentials early in the debate…or every time you speak, as was the case with Senator Reid of Nevada.
So be it!
My mother was born in New Westminster, British Columbia.
Her parents migrated to Canada from England many moons ago and I would state which year but there would be severe consequences for revealing her age…such as death or even worse, an increase in the already numerous daily phone calls.
My mother, a Canadian citizen, married a U.S. citizen, my father. She did not apply for U.S. citizenship—she was perfectly happy being a Canadian.
But a few years ago, my mother suddenly decided to apply for U.S. citizenship, which surprised me a bit—I asked her why.
She looked at me with surprise and said "So I can vote against Bill Clinton, of course."
There you have it: my certified immigrant sob story—proving that I am not anti-immigrant.
Today, the Senate passed a ghastly immigration bill. Incredibly, this bill was carried (62-36) with the support of only a minority of Republican Senators (23 vs. 32). In other words, the Bush White House is pushing a Democratic bill.
As a Republican campaign consultant, I wonder: do the Democrats know something Bush doesn't?
Actually—I don't wonder.
Now we have to hope the House will save us from impending doom.
As you know, the House passed the Sensenbrenner bill, HR4437, last December—an immigration reform measure that focuses on security issues.
There is no "guest worker" provision, amnesty plan or path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the Sensenbrenner bill. In fact, illegal presence in the U.S. would be a felony offense under the House plan.
The President has made it clear that he will not sign an immigration bill which does not offer a "comprehensive" a.k.a. capitulation approach.
As far as the White House is concerned, the legislation must contain a guest worker program and a clear path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
In a word, amnesty.
Congressman Mike Pence (R-Indiana) has now revealed his own plan which he describes as "no-amnesty", a "compromise" and "a REAL rational middle ground."
But is it?
Mr. Pence first provided his idea to Time Magazine and then revealed a certain amount of detail in an address to the Heritage Foundation.
Looking at Congressman Pence's Blog, the information about his plan seems limited to an assortment of press clippings.
The problem is, we haven't seen the actual bill language but we can determine the overall gist of the measure by his press statements.
From his remarks before the Heritage Foundation:
"…my bill begins by including the House bill, with a couple of minor changes. The House got it right, and aside from removing the felony provision for illegal presence and clarifying that no one is trying to put Good Samaritans behind bars, I am keeping this language as-is." [Renewing the American Dream: The Real Rational Middle Ground on Immigration Reform, May 23, 2006]
This is one of the more flagrant flaws of the Pence plan:
Congressman Pence is removing the felony provision from the House bill—but is not replacing it with any type of consequence.
Congressman Pence is removing the provision that punishes those who aid and abet illegal immigration.
Many would argue that these are essential elements of any immigration reform bill.
Pence could have clarified the term "Good Samaritan" and simply exempted those people from punishment; clergy, for example.
I think most of us would agree that a priest who offers shelter to a man without asking his immigration status is likely just keeping step with his commitment to charity.
But activist groups who provide water, food, transportation and maps to illegal border crossers are breaking the law and need to be punished.
The proposed Pence process contains four steps:
How is the guest worker program in the Pence Plan different than the others? How is it not an amnesty deal?
According to Pence, it is all about how you define amnesty:
"Amnesty is allowing people whose first act in America was an illegal act to get right with the law without leaving the country."
Then he added:
"Allowing twelve 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 twelve million people is to insist that they leave the country and come back legally if they have a job awaiting them."
Yeah, I like Mike Pence and by and large he does a great job but he is way off on this one.
If he was aiming for right field in Candlestick (I will not call it AT&T Park and I don't even like the Giants) the ball landed somewhere behind home plate at Wrigley Field.
To use his words "no matter…how it is otherwise dress-up", this is still amnesty.
How does he propose we accomplish this?
"…the solution is to setup a system that will encourage illegal aliens to self-deport and come back legally as guest workers."
The problem is they won't and it is foolish to think they will.
However, the Congressman is confident they will.
"Now, some of you are thinking to yourselves that twelve million people aren't going to pack up and leave just to get a visa to come back legally. But, I believe most will."
"The process that I just described to you will only take a matter of one week, or less. That is the beauty of the program. Speed is so important."
I still don't see the motive—why would they do it?
"…an illegal alien currently employed in America will be willing to take a quick trip across the border to come back outside of the shadows and in a job where he does not fear a raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement."
We are talking about people who have lived here illegally for years. They do not fear deportation—if for no other reason, they know they can sneak right back in because they do, all the time.
Once again I ask: how is this bill not an amnesty?
According to the Plan,
"There also will be a limit on the amount of time a guest worker can spend in America. Guest workers will be allowed to renew their W Visas, but only for a period of up to six years. At that point, the guest should decide whether to return home or enter the separate process of seeking citizenship."
So there is a path to citizenship after working for six years…just like the Mc Cain/Kennedy bill.
Here is one glaring difference between the two bills which might shock a few people: more illegal aliens will be ineligible to stay in the U.S. under the Mc Cain/Kennedy Plan than the Pence Plan.
Under the McKennedy Plan, those illegal immigrants who have resided in the U.S. less than five years have to leave and re-apply with no guarantee of re-entry.
Illegal immigrants who have resided here less than two years have to leave, period.
The Pence Plan allows all illegal aliens in the U.S. regardless of their time in residence to stay here—they must leave and re-enter legally but they are guaranteed a turn around time of one week.
According to the Pew Hispanic research Center, that amounts to roughly 4.8 million people or 2.8 million (>5 years) and 2 million (>2 years).
How can it be a compromise when the Pence Plan would increase the number of newly legalized illegal immigrants by almost five million?
It is important to note that this is not a question of what the illegal aliens are likely to do (e.g. whether they actually follow the rules of either plan). It's a question of which plan offers a larger scope for amnesty.
Rep. Pence also claims the bill does not provide preferential treatment for illegal aliens.
Hmm…can all would-be immigrants from foreign nations apply for the "W" visa with a guaranteed entry in one week?
The answer is no. And, therefore, we have clear preferential treatment for illegal immigrants.
There are rumors that Congressman Pence will include language to end the "anchor baby" citizenship nightmare but I have not seen any comments by him addressing that issue.
Additionally, the concept of having private business monitor the program instead of another government bureaucracy sounds interesting—until you read Ed Rubenstein's analysis of impracticality.
(There's a lot of math involved…not my forte.)
So let's sum it up:
1. Telling 12-20 million illegal aliens they can stay in the United States if they first take a 7-day vacation back to their home country is amnesty.
2. Pointing to a section of our economy and saying "these businesses will fail without cheap, imported labor" is not only a lie, it's a bullying tactic and Americans do not like it!
3. Without the criminal provisions of the Sensenbrenner bill, we will only see a further increase in illegal immigration…consequence is always the best deterrent!
The Pence Plan is not a comprehensive reform plan, it's a plan designed to pacify the President and appease employers who have allowed themselves to become dependent on cheap labor.
They are a lot like heroin addicts aren't they? They really believe they have to have it and can even manage to convince a few people that they need it to survive.
Well, you can give a heroin addict methadone, but you have not cured him of his addiction—you have only replaced one drug with another.
The sad part is, he can make it without either. And all these employers can make it without cheap, imported labor…but not if we let them take the easy path.
The Pence Plan is also a feeble, futile attempt to please the conservative constituency. Some politicians believe they must go to the voters with new immigration laws in hand or face defeat.
My view: Republican voters would rather have nothing than a giant amnesty plan.
Congressman Pence explains his own motive for writing this bill.
"Immigration Reform is about renewing the American Dream. We renew the American Dream by reaffirming our commitment to legal immigration. We renew the American Dream by giving those who have made their way into our country illegally, an opportunity to come out of the shadows."
Bunk. Mass illegal immigration has depressed American wages, displaced American workers, weakened the quality of education for American children and crippled our medical care system.
The Pence Plan and the new Senate bill only further these crimes.
They aren't providing illegal aliens with an opportunity to achieve the American Dream. They are sacrificing what little is left of ours.
Bryanna Bevens [email her] is a political consultant and former chief of staff for a member of the California State Assembly.