The Arizona Daily Star, May 15, 2005
EQUAL TIME: Mark Krikorian calls 'Secure America' the last stand of the open borders lobby.
Like the telemarketer who bilks a widow then comes back in different guise to "help" her get her money back, the anti-borders crowd that created today's immigration crisis is offering as a solution the policies that got us in this mess in the first place.
The essence of the John McCain-Ted Kennedy bill is the same as the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act: amnesty up front for millions of illegal aliens and paltry promises of future enforcement - promises that will quickly be abandoned.
But in 1986, many people didn't know that yet. There was a sense then that the law was a grand bargain - closing the back door by prohibiting the employment of illegal immigrants (for the first time ever), but tying up prior missteps with an amnesty.
The proposed amnesty in McCain-Kennedy works this way: The former illegal aliens are re-labeled legal workers; after six years of indenture, payment of some fines, criminal and security background checks and an English and civics test, they (and their families) get green cards.
This is similar to how the last amnesty worked, except for the term of indenture; the 1986 law amnestied those who entered the country before a certain date, about four years prior to the law's passage. Thus McCain/Kennedy is prospective amnesty, as opposed to retrospective amnesty.
The guest worker part of the bill provides for 400,000 new foreign workers a year, with an escalator clause if businesses snap up the cheap, docile labor faster than expected. These "temporary" workers would have to serve only four years of indenture before they, too, would get green cards. To accommodate them, legal immigration quotas would rise nearly half-million a year.
The enforcement sections of the bill are laughably thin. The part on border security is almost a parody of a Washington cop-out: It orders up yet another "National Strategy for Border Security." How about picking a previous strategy and just enforcing it?
Plus there's an advisory committee, two coordination plans, and various reports and programs and partnerships. It's like John Kerry going duck hunting: He's wearing the right outfit, but he's obviously insincere.
And the interior enforcement provisions seem intended to actually hobble enforcement. Though the law provides for a system to verify employment eligibility, it instructs the Social Security Administration to reinvent the wheel rather than expanding on the successful pilot system the immigration service has been developing for over a decade.
The job of auditing firms for compliance with the immigration law would also be taken away from immigration agents, and given instead to the Labor Department, perhaps the only agency even less capable of doing its job. And the bill specifically says it does not give state and local cops any new authority to enforce immigration law.
The public is becoming increasingly concerned about immigration. The issue is seldom among the top two or three issues for voters, but that seems to be changing. Recurrent reports of terrorists and super-violent gang members exploiting our broken immigration system are finally getting people's attention.
The way the Minuteman Project border-watch program in Arizona resonated on talk radio, its spread to other states, and its adoption by politicians as California Gov. Schwarzenegger are all signs the McCain/Kennedy amnesty bill may well be the last gasp of the anti-borders crowd.
Mark Krikorian is Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.