In the good old days of congressional decision-making on immigration matters, we had bill introductions, hearings on those bills, floor speeches, and floor votes; it took time, but it allowed most voices to be heard.
Now, we have off-stage conversations between those representing the White House and the Senate’s parliamentarian, the no-longer obscure Elizabeth MacDonough, as my colleague Art Arthur and I have described previously.
The administration’s Plan A was a full-throated, “let-almost-all-of -‘em-in” amnesty for some eight million. She said that such a big policy decision should not be tucked in a “must-pass” appropriations bill such as the pending reconciliation measure.
Then there was Plan B, not quite so sweeping, to move the so-called registry date up some decades from the current date, January 1, 1972. All illegals who can claim continuous residence in the U.S. since that time, nearly 50 years ago, can sign up for a green card. As we recently noted “all” does not mean “many”. This change would have given legal status to some 6.7 million illegals. MacDonough would not accept that, either, for the same reasons.
Now, according to The Hill, Plan C is being offered to the parliamentarian; it would not grant permanent legal status to anyone but would extend a temporary status, parole, to an unspecified number of (presumably millions) of illegals. The beneficiaries would be able to work legally, and presumably cross our borders as well. How will she react? No one knows for sure, but C sounds an awful lot like a watered-down A or B to me.
A parole plan, without any path to citizenship, would disappoint the open-doors people, while offering a small concession to those of us who want to keep immigration going, but at a more sensible pace than we have currently. That advantage would be that it would tend to reduce the amount of exploitation inflicted on these foreign workers by a bit, and thus make their presence in the labor market somewhat less negative.
On the other hand, there would be massive disadvantages. In the first place, it would reinforce the image of a soft immigration policy and encourage still larger groups of unauthorized aliens to seek to burst into our country.
Secondly, you cannot very well let people work legally, but deny them a Social Security number. Granting these cards to millions of low-skilled workers, some close to retirement age, would be devastating to the Social Security system, as another colleague, Jason Richwine, has pointed out.
Further, any such legalization of illegal workers would ease the current trend toward a tighter labor market, which is always the best friend of American workers.
If Plan C fails, will there be yet another scheme, one thoroughly untested by any congressional processes? We will see.