President Bush is on the amnesty offensive again, again. Yesterday he gave a speech in Yuma Arizona, [Text] full of the usual platitudes about illegal aliens "doing jobs Americans are not doing" and how family values do not "stop at the Rio Grande." And, of course, he urged Congress to pass "comprehensive immigration reform."
The White House released a fact sheet giving the president's usual plan: nominal increases in enforcement, a temporary worker plan, and a way to "resolve" the status of illegal aliens in this country.
None of this was unexpected. What was noticeably absent from his speech or fact sheet was any discussion of Y or Z visas—or any other details of the immigration plan that was leaked from the White House earlier this month.
What is public is not a bill, but a 23 page PowerPoint presentation detailing the major themes of the legislation. [View it in PDF here] There are some good things in the proposal, but nevertheless in no way should any patriotic immigration reformer even consider supporting it.
The White House PowerPoint notes that 58% of visas granted annually are given based on family reunification, while only 22% are given based on skills—much lower than most other First World countries. It suggests increasing emphasis on skills. The plan also calls for the long overdue abolition of the diversity visa lottery. And like all immigration bills, it has a security component to it as well.
This is all well and good. But when considering new legislation, there are three very simple questions that immigration reform patriots should ask:
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then the proposal should be disregarded. As bad as the status quo is right now, any policy that has any of those provisions will simply increase the immigration flood, no matter what other reforms it promises.
Like every single proposal that has come from the Bush White House, the answer to all three questions is: yes.
While it is nice to give higher priority to skill-based immigration rather than family-based chain migration, the proposal aims to increase the total immigration quota to 1.4 million people a year. So rather than ending chain migration, it simply increases skilled migration relatively faster than it increases family-based immigration.
The plan also creates an unspecified number of $1500 "Y visas" for "rotating" guest workers that can be altered by the Secretaries of Homeland Security, Commerce, and Labor. "Rotating" means that, in theory, these guest workers need to return home for a short period before they can renew their visa. (They are either 2 years and out 6 months or in 9 months and out 6 months.) Also, in theory, these workers are not automatically given permanent residency after their term expires. And "Y visa" guest workers cannot bring in their children. (But, of course, any children they have here will be citizens under the current misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment).
And, of course, the PowerPoint paradoxically tells us that the bill "brings illegal workers out of the shadows without amnesty."
Needless to say, any plan that "brings illegals out of the shadows" without deporting them is an amnesty.
Many of the legislators in Washington who opposed last years amnesty did so because it gave illegal aliens a so-called "path to citizenship". So now the PowerPoint notes explicitly that the proposal offers "no special path to citizenship". Instead, illegal aliens already here can pay $3500 to get a three-year "Z visa" that can be renewed indefinitely. They can also then apply to get a permanent visa through regular channels, paying a $10,000 fine when their number comes up.
Even if all goes as we are told, this bill would dramatically increase the rate at which this country is flooded both legally and illegally. But there is absolutely no way things will go as planned if this proposal were enacted.
The guest workers supposedly are not given automatic legal permanent residency—but we all know that in 5 years we will be assailed with MSM sob stories about how they played by the rules, put down roots in this country, but now have to go home. (And, sure enough, the PowerPoint says "there ought to be some meaningful chance for a temporary worker who has been a model employee and good member of the community to be eligible for LPR through normal channels".)
Similarly while, the illegals shouldn't get citizenship even with a $10,000 fine, you can be sure to read features in the Los Angeles Times about families who can't afford to send their daughters to college because they have to pay the fine to become citizens. And we can expect plenty of loopholes.
$10,000 is a lot of money, but the mass immigration crisis that this country faces is about more than dollars and cents. Even if it were, $10,000 dollars is not close to enough. The Heritage Foundation recently released a report on the fiscal costs of high school drop out households (which includes the majority of illegal alien households) and found them to be a net fiscal drain of $22,449 a year or 1.1 million dollars over their lifetime.
In fact, the sob stores have already started. Thousands of illegals marched in Los Angeles this weekend partially in protest of the Z Visas. The Associated Press dutifully reported their complaint: "Charging that much, Bush is going to be even more expensive than the coyotes."
And the AP quoted Latino leader Juan Jose Gutierrez: "'People are really upset. For years, the president spoke in no uncertain terms about supporting immigration reform. . . . Then this kind of plan comes out and people are so frustrated.'"[Immigrants march in downtown L.A. to protest Bush visa plan and demand path to citizenship, By Peter Prengaman April 7, 2007]
My question: is this really the White House's proposal? Bush reportedly crafted this with Senators John Cornyn and John Kyl—two opponents of last year's 2611. Many of the other 22 Republicans who voted against it may sign on to this plan as well. But, despite the White House's involvement in crafting the plan, a Bush spokesman refused to comment on it.
At the same time, suspiciously, the Bush White House is still in active talks with Ted Kennedy who plans on introducing a carbon copy of last year's 2611 and has spoken highly of the recent Flake-Gutierrez bill.
White House aides tell the Washington Post, that the "Z visas" are just one of many "one of many ideas the president would consider." In other words, Bush will not consider any sort of legislation that just secures the border and enforces the law.
What the White House and their allies may be hoping is that the "restrictionist wing" of the Senate, if you can call it that, will begin negotiations with a bill that increases legal immigration, creates a massive guest worker program, and gives amnesty to illegal aliens. If they do, they will have surrendered before the battle has even begun. [Bush Makes Push To Resolve Status Of Illegal Workers By Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post, April 10, 2007]
Of course, the Mainstream Media will insist that the "Z visas" are the product of right wing restrictionists, and angry Mexicans will be in street denouncing it. This will give the false aura of real restriction, encourage a phony debate in the Senate and provide a nice plan for some GOP presidential hopefuls to latch onto.
Then the best we can hope for is that the Democrats and Republicans will split on partisan lines, and nothing will get past cloture.
However, if we get a dreaded "bipartisan compromise", we can be sure that the final result will be a bill that strips out any of the relatively good reforms made in this proposal, leaving us with the same amnesty and legal immigration increase.
Partisan bickering may avert disaster for the interim. But if we are going to win in the long run, the terms of the debate must be changed.
Marcus Epstein [send him mail] is the founder of the Robert A Taft Club and the executive director of the The American Cause and Team America PAC. A selection of his articles can be seen here. The views he expresses are his own.