Panel Transcript: Implications of the Hagel-Martinez Amnesty Bill

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Download a flow chart explaining the paths to amnesty


Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL)

Steven Camarota, Director of Research, Center for Immigration Studies
Rosemary Jenks, Director, Government Relations, NumbersUSA
Michael Maxwell, Former Director, The Office of Security and Investigations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security

STEVEN CAMAROTA: Welcome. I'm Steven Camarota. I'm Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies. We are the convener of this panel, and we have convened the panel to discuss the provisions of the recently passed Senate Bill S. 2611. Sometimes it's still referred to as Hagel-Martinez after its chief sponsors as well. And of course the bill itself is over 750 pages long, and then much of, it as a result, has gone unexamined, even by those who voted for it unfortunately.

Now, on this panel I will be joined by my in addition to myself, I will be joined by Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama. Senator Sessions serves on four committees: Armed Services, Judiciary, Budget, and Health Education Labor and Pensions. He also chairs the Republican Steering Committee. Senator Sessions has become one of the nation's and the Senate's most respected and sane voices on the problems with S. 2611, and he will discuss an updated numerical impact analysis he released last week on how many people this bill actually lets in. And he'll also talk about what the CBO the Congressional Budget Office has looked at will be the likely level of illegal immigration even after this bill passes.

Now, after the senator speaks, I will go next. I am releasing a report today, which you should have gotten on your way in. You should have it in front of you. It examines the number of illegal immigrants or illegal aliens expected to receive amnesty both legally or legitimately and fraudulently under the provisions of S. 2611.

And after myself, Rosemary Jenks, who is the director of government relations at NumbersUSA, will speak. She will be discussing the little known provisions in this bill but often they may be little known but they often have very large impacts.

And finally, we have with us Michael Maxwell, who is the former director of the Office of Security and Investigations at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, within the Department, of course, of Homeland Security. He will discuss the ability of the immigration bureaucracy to handle the enormous increase and workload mandated in the Senate bill.

With that I turn it over to Senator Sessions.

SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): Thank you, Steve. It's very clear that immigration policy for the United States for the next 20 years presumably that's what this bill will affect is very important. It is a national priority. The American people know it, they care about it, they've been interested in it for a long, long time, yet the United States Senate, when it announced and moved forward with the McCain-Kennedy bill, did so in a way that really did not meet the high standards that the U.S. Senate should set when it deals with a piece of legislation so important and so much cared about by the American people. It was hatched in secret; it was put together by a coalition of groups. It sounds to me like that coalition would be the Chamber of Commerce and immigration activist groups. I don't know who else would have put a bill together as flawed as this one is.

When a good amendment was put forward by Senator Isakson that said that we would not effect any amnesty or legalization under the bill until the enforcement had been fixed, that was voted down 55 to 40. And basically what that said was we were not committed the people promoting this legislation were not committed to enforcement. And we were told that there was a delicate balance put together by the groups that had written the bill, and that delicate balance couldn't be upset by this amendment or by several other amendments that were offered. Senator McCain said there was this delicate balance. I asked him, who was in this compromise? Who wrote this bill? Who wrote this agreement? I wasn't in it; the American people weren't in it.

And the truth is it was a special interest bill, in my view, written by lawyers in a most clever way. I'm sure they put things in the bill that the sponsors had no idea were in it. I'm sure there were effects of the language, that the sponsors, in all fairness, had no idea were there. It's a very, very serious failure for the Senate. And if you're a member, they wanted to have no amendments. The first time the bill came up, Senator Reid insisted there be no amendments. And finally, when Senators Kyl and Cornyn and others objected so strongly, Senator Frist pulled the bill, said he wouldn't bring it back up until we had amendments for heaven's sakes. And that resulted in some improvement in the bill, but the fundamental flaws were so great there was never any possibility they could be fixed by normal amendment process.

What did the bill promise? It promised no amnesty. But I submit when you give an illegal entrant into our country every single benefit that our nation can give, you've provided him amnesty. They promised a secure border, but the Isakson amendment suggested there was no commitment to the border. And as we all know, you can authorize money for fencing, for prisons, for agents, but if they're never funded you won't have that occur.

They promised a worksite and verification program, but even Secretary Chertoff said it would not work. He said the language, as provided for it in the bill, was a poison pill, and we had an amendment and it lost. So Secretary Chertoff has now said the worksite enforcement will not work. How can we have an effective piece of legislation that does not have worksite enforcement?

They claimed in big print in their bill that it was a temporary guest worker program; you heard that over and over again. But those temporary guest workers who enter into our country, within days or weeks of entering here, can have their employer apply for a green card for them. Once they get a green card, that means they're a legal permanent resident and can stay in the country as long as they live. So this was never a temporary guest worker program.

It was actually really beyond misleading, frankly, to have that language in the bill, to have the sponsors talk about it being a temporary guest worker program when it was a fundamental huge alteration of our immigration policies to create huge flows of permanent residents, who, once they have a green card, will within five years be able to become a citizen. So that's what the truth was about the bill. We had some amendments that worked and we dropped the numbers down some, but it was really a stunning bill as it came out of committee and still is utterly flawed.

What about the illegal flow? They said we were going to deal with that and secure the borders. The Congressional Budget Office, in an appendix to the report they did on the legislation, a report cited by the sponsors of the bill, noted that in their view there would be no change in illegal immigration. Seven hundred (thousand) to 900,000 per year illegal immigrants would enter our country. What kind of reform bill is that when the Congressional Budget Office says it will not reduce illegal immigration into the country? And they contended it would create a comprehensive future policy for immigration.

Now, we think it is not a thought-out policy at all. For example, we believe that in the next 20 years our staff has worked on the numbers as hard as they can and we think it will add 53 million people into the legally permanent residents of the United States in the next 20 years. If you have 7 (hundred-thousand) to 900,000 illegals enter continually, as CBO projected, you're talking about 70 million people in the next 20 years, approximately 25 percent of the current population of the United States of America. That is a huge decision for Congress and the Senate to make.

And I got to tell you, the senators did not know it; they did not understand it. They were shocked when we pointed out through the accelerating clauses in the bill that you could enter our country as many as 200 million when the bill first hit the floor. Some amendments were passed and it brought that number down and we think now to under 60 million. But the lawful legal rate today for immigration is 18 million over 20 years 19 million over 20 years. So 53 million represents almost three times that, plus the illegal immigration, and nobody has thought this through.

So, we're very, very concerned about it. I thank the Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA, and others who have battled on this issue. They tried to move this bill through the Senate of the United States without full debate, without a comprehensive understanding by the senators, much less the American people, as to its scope and its possible impact.

Let me just share a couple of things. How in the world could we think about passing a new immigration policy that does not discuss the balance between the low-skill and high-skill workers? Does any advanced nation in the world consider immigration without discussing this? Canada has a point system. That has never even been discussed in our policy. Why in the world, if you're going to have comprehensive reform, would you not discuss those kinds of thoughts?

We think under the bill that 70, 80 percent of the people entered will be low-skill immigrants. We know about two-thirds, over 60 percent at least, of those who are here illegally today and are proposed for amnesty are high school dropouts. They do not have high school degrees. They are not going to be able to be highly successful in our workplace. Just like one of the economists said at the Judiciary Committee hearing, just like American workers who drop out. And they all agreed, those economists did, that those without a high school degree, without skills, are going to be a net drain on the economy and not be a net positive for the economy of the United States. So why aren't we thinking about that and discussing that? It has not been discussed. Have you heard it discussed? I certainly don't think we have.

The excellent book, Heaven's Door, by Professor Borjas at Harvard the Kennedy School at Harvard maybe Senator Kennedy should call him, invite him over for coffee. (Laughter.) He is a immigrant himself from Cuba. He really has a strong feeling about immigrants, but he drives home the point that skilled immigrants make a big difference, and any nation that's acting in its own interest would want to emphasize skilled immigrants. As a matter of fact, I think he sort of tossed out the question, what should the policy be? Should it be in the national interest or not? This book was written a number of years ago. And if you act in your national interest, then you would want to have higher-skill workers as a rule. And in fact, you know what he suggested also, he suggested he thought the proper legal entry numbers per year would be 500,000. Think about that. Professor Borjas is probably the leading authority in America on immigration, scientifically analyzing the data and studies that have been carried out and the economic impacts of it; he concludes that the proper number would be 500,000 a year, which is 10 million let me tell you if your math is not good over 20 years. We're talking about now 70 million over 20 years.

Also, there's no doubt in my mind that all the studies and expert testimony we have heard show that large numbers of workers coming into our country do in fact reduce the wages of American workers. The American economy is growing; it's growing strongly and businesses are making record profits. Our GDP is up, but the wages of low- and middle-income workers are not up. In fact, some studies show that they're at least flat, and some show they're falling below the rate of inflation. I think that's a direct result of this large surge of immigration that drives down our wages.

And finally, the numbers put out by Robert Rector, the architect of welfare reform that has worked so well, his numbers say that the low-skill workers that are coming in, the parents that they're able to bring in automatically elderly parents who will draw on the healthcare system in the second 10 years of the 20 years that he attempted to estimate, could cost the United States as much as $50 billion a year in welfare and those kind of programs.

So those are some of the thoughts that I have. And the obsession with moving something forward is a bad idea on any legislation, but it's certainly bad when you're talking about a piece of legislation as important as this one. We need to get it right. The Senate does not need to just pass anything just to move it on so it can go to conference, which is basically a small group of House and Senate members appointed by the leadership, meeting often in secret to hammer out a bill, that when it comes back the floor of each body is not subject to amendment. That's not good policy on a matter of this importance.

So I thank the panelists here. They're making some very, very good points; I hope the American people will listen to them. We need to take a deep breath. We need to slow down. We need to ask ourselves, what should a good immigration policy be? What is the decent, right, and just way to treat people who came here illegally? I say we can be kind and generous and compassionate, but we do not have to provide them every single benefit that you give to somebody who comes legally; otherwise you undermine the rule of law.

So we've got some big decisions ahead. We need to continue to discuss it. I'm glad the House has its back up. I don't think the House is ready to bite anytime soon, and it will give us an opportunity to have a better national discussion.

Steve, thank you.

MR. CAMAROTA: Thank you, Senator. We really appreciate your comments.

I'm going to shift gears a little bit here and now talk about this report that we're releasing today. You should have it. It's called Amnesty Under Hagel-Martinez: An Estimate of How Many Will Legalize if S. 2611 Becomes Law. The detailed methodology is there; let me try to summarize what it is. Obviously there's been a lot of talk about the wisdom of granting amnesty to illegal aliens in this country, but there has been less talk about how many would actually get it and how a system like this might work. The report I'm releasing today tries to address those questions.

Now, I should say that we use the terms amnesty and legalization interchangeably in this report. By amnesty we mean that persons are given some kind of legal status, are not subject to the normal penalty of deportation, and can work legally in the United States. In our view, any policy or legislation that does not require those who break the law to then abide by it but instead suspends the normal penalty and in some way changes the law to accommodate the violator of the law that constitutes amnesty. However, if one does not like the term amnesty, legalization can be used just as well and can be substituted in the report.

Now, first we start with how many illegals could quality for the three major amnesties in S. 2611. The amnesties actually are pretty complex, but let me try to just touch on them. We have a diagram up here of what are the bureaucratic requirements. And some of the other panelists will touch on that, but as you can see there are basically three mainstreams of amnesties in the bill. Again, it appears that there are three main groups.

There are about 1.1 million people who are agricultural workers. They would qualify for what's called the blue card amnesty. There are about 7.3 million, we think best estimates of people who have been here five or more years. They would qualify for what might be called the glide path amnesty; they're on a glide path clear to LPR status . . . that is, the green card permanent residence in the United States which then allows you to apply for citizenship. And there are probably about 1.8 million who have been here two to five years, and they would qualify what's called DMD, Deferred Mandatory Departure amnesty.

Now, while there are significant differences in the way they work, all allow the illegal alien to come forward and apply for some kind of legal status that allows him to stay and work in the United States and eventually become a permanent resident; again, also referred to as a green card.

Now, how is this going to work? Well, some of the best insight we can gain from this is look at past amnesties. The big one in 1986 is the real model. The 1986 amnesty, also referred by its initials as IRCA it appears that about 70 percent of the people, roughly speaking, who were eligible for that program came forward in its main provision, which was [green cards] for people who had been here for more than five years. There was another special provision for people who worked in agriculture in the '86 amnesty and it appears that just about every one of those people came forward as well.

We apply the same basic methodology here to the eligible population. In the non-agricultural amnesty, the two the people here on the glide path and the people in the DMD status we expect 70 percent of those individuals who are eligible to come forward and legalize. Now, that's not the number who will get green cards we'll talk about that later but who get on the track to go to green cards under these bills. We also expect about 90 percent of the eligible agricultural workers to come forward because that route, the blue card, is cheaper and quicker to get your green card. So we expect that one to have a slightly higher rate as in 1986.

But it's important to note that even after this legalization there will still be several million people, presumably, in the United States who don't come forward. They fear that it's a trick, it's a ruse by the government to trick them into coming forward, or they're just pretty much happy with the way they are; the system looks like a black box. So there will still be a significant, non-trivial number of illegal aliens, even if 70 to 90 percent come forward.

Now, we think actually in some ways that our estimate is high I mean, is low of people who will come forward. Maybe a higher percentage will, because unlike in 86, we have the precedent of 86, and illegal aliens know that an amnesty is real this time. It isn't a ruse, it isn't a trick to get them to come forward and deport them . . . also, the fact that the border itself has become somewhat more difficult to cross and it's harder to go back and forth may make legalization a more attractive option as well. So it could be that a higher percentage will come forward, but it's certainly safe to assume that the pattern would look at least like 1986.

Now, what does this mean? Well, it means that about 7.4 million illegal aliens should come forward and get their amnesty, their legalization, legitimately. Now, in addition to legitimate amnesties, as in 1986, we assume that there will be about one fraudulent amnesty for every three legitimate amnesties, for about 2.6 million fraudulent amnesties. Roughly a quarter of the people, about 9.9 million in total now who would receive it the 7.4 million legitimately and about 2.6 million fraudulently about 10 million can be expected to get amnesty legitimately or fraudulently based on the previous amnesty. And the fraudulent estimates in the previous amnesty may have been higher; it may have been more than 1 in 3. There's some debate. But 1 in 3 is a pretty conservative estimate for the 86 amnesty, and it's also a pretty conservative estimate for fraud in this amnesty because it's so much bigger.

Again, this diagram here shows you the kind of bureaucratic system that has to be in place to do the background check on all these individuals, and one has to also remember that this amnesty is about four times bigger. And yet the current bureaucracy is completely overwhelmed with its current workload, according to every source. The General Accounting Office I should say Government Accountability Office, Congressional Research Service, Inspector General's reports all come to the same conclusion: the bureaucracy is overwhelmed with its current workload, and fraud has already become endemic. Now you're asking them to basically do four times as many applications. And as we'll see, that's not the only amnesty provisions.

Now, the bill also allows family members currently living abroad to come and join their newly legalized relatives. Based on some estimates done by us looking at the Current Population Survey and illegals in that survey, surveys of Mexicans in the United States and some other groups, the Pew Hispanic Center and so forth . . . we estimate that it looks like there's about 1.5 million spouses of illegal aliens who will qualify for this amnesty currently living abroad, so they can be expected to come and join them. In addition, it looks like about 3 million children currently live abroad of illegal aliens, who will also be the beneficiaries of this amnesty.

In total, if you include the illegal aliens who will legalize and their spouses and minor children who will be allowed to join them, about 14.4 million is our total estimate for the number who will benefit from the main amnesty provisions in the bill. Now, that's not our estimate for the number who will eventually get green cards; that's just our estimate for the number who will come forward or come from abroad for the amnesty provisions. The detailed estimates are in Table 1 and in the methodology in the report, if you would like to see, you know, more how this plays out.

Now, in addition to that well, I should say, now, that 14.4 million represents the potential pool of people who will get LPR status; that is green cards, lawful permanent residence that then would allow you to apply for citizenship. We expect and you can see the summary of the results in Table 2, but the detailed estimates [are] in Table 3 that about 13.5 million of the individuals in the three main amnesties in Hagel-Martinez will eventually adjust to LPR status.

The remainder roughly a million can be expected to either die; it's a very large population; in any human population you also have deaths, and some of these people do have to wait a number of years to get green cards. Some get it very quickly but some get it after quite a long period of time. So there's any . . . there's always deaths in any population, and as well as also return migration. Some people will choose to go home and not go through the process, and we're trying to base the number who will do that based on past experiences of return or out-migration.

So again, of the 14.4 million family members and illegal aliens themselves, we expect about 13.5 million to eventually adjust to legal status. And again, Tables 2 and 3 show the detailed estimates, and I would be happy to speak to you more about the methodology in the question and answer.

Let me just say in conclusion, it must be remembered, of course, that illegal immigration is always very difficult to quantify. So although the estimates in this report are based on the best available information, they are still subject to the high level of uncertainty that surrounds illegal immigration. It is also worth noting that there is no numerical limit on the number of people who can benefit from the amnesty. This fact, coupled with the high rate of fraud that already exists in the immigration system, means that the number of people who will ultimately use the amnesty provisions in Hagle-Martinez could turn out to be much higher than estimated here. Thank you.

Now we'll be joined by Rosemary Jenks of NumbersUSA.

ROSEMARY JENKS: Thank you, Steve. I just want to start by pointing out that Steve mentioned that those are some of the amnesties in this bill, and in fact there are three other at least three other, maybe more amnesties, including one for anyone who entered the United States illegally before the age of 16, one for members of persecuted religious minorities who have applied for amnesty by 2003, and believe it or not, there's one buried in here for sheep herders, goat herders, and dairy workers. So it's sort of a smorgasbord for everyone.

I work for NumbersUSA, so I want to talk a little bit more you've heard some about numbers, but I'll tell you there's one provision Steve asked me to go through this bill nightmare that it is and pick out the provisions that nobody has really been talking about but that would have a big impact. Well, unfortunately, those are what I picked out. So, it was really unfair of him to ask me to limit the number that I would talk about to just handful, but I'm going to try.

The first one that I want to talk about is one that I'm pretty sure was not included in the estimates that Senator Sessions office did on the numerical impact of this bill, and I know that it wasn't included in Robert Rector's estimates, and it was actually in the committee markup by Senator Brownback. It's mislabeled widows and orphans, but what it says is that and I'm going to read you the actual language here because it's too good to pass up it essentially invites any alien outside the United States who's determined by a consular or immigration official to be a minor under the age of 18, for whom no parent or legal guardian is able to provide adequate care, who faces a credible fear of harm related to his or her age, who lacks adequate protection from such harm and for whom it has been determined to be in his or her best interest, to be admitted to the United States, or who is determined by such official to be a female who has a credible fear of harm related to her sex, and a lack of adequate protection from such harm to come to the United States as a non-immigrant, to get refugee cash benefits and then adjust to legal permanent residence pretty much immediately.

So we're talking about women at risk of harm in the world and children without someone to adequately support them in the world coming here. Well, if women are just over half the population of the world, we can exclude: the United States, Canada, Australia, most of Western Europe, and then I hit a blank. You know, you could argue that women in just about the rest of the world have a credible fear of harm. So, that is a provision that is mind boggling, the impact that that could have, and I have not heard word one about this. So, that's one thing that's in there and it has absolutely nothing to do with widows or orphans. There's also, by the way, another section about widows and orphans that actually is about widows and orphans, and they get legal status, too.

This bill is full of provisions that grant legal status to everyone, for everything. It does in fact, as Senator Session said, flood the low-skill labor market. But they did a pretty good job of trying to make up for that in the high-skill labor market as well. They've increased H-1Bs, they've increased dramatically increased employment-based visas, and then exempted huge categories of people from the caps on both. They've also, on the unskilled side, extended for three years the H-2B provisions that were enacted a couple of years ago. I haven't heard anyone talking about that.

This is just a massive worker importation plan, and it is sort of amazing that the Democrats really were driving this in the Senate since they're the ones that, you know, allegedly are supposed to be standing up for American workers and wages and all that. This thing would devastate American workers in virtually every job category. And in fact, in some job categories apparently the Labor [Department] gets to decide which categories there won't be any protections at all for U.S. workers. They'll get a blanket certification and anybody that wants to come, who says that he or she will work in that category, gets to come and, you know, as soon as they get their green cards they can work wherever they want, as can their children and their spouses.

And that's the other thing, when you talk this also increases family-based immigration but it doesn't really matter whether you're talking about family-based immigration or employment-based immigration or H-1Bs or H-2As, or H-2Bs they're all workers. They're all coming here to work pretty much, except for those who are coming to do other, bad things, and that's another issue in this bill. Essentially I'll stick with the legal for a minute . . . the . . . I would guess that will, well, I can't even imagine what the actual number would be of people who would be admitted under this bill if things like this Brownback amendment are taken into consideration; I mean, you know, we could be talking a billion people. Obviously our bureaucracy couldn't handle that, but the potential is really there.

On the illegal side, I have to agree with Senator Sessions, I think it is very clear based on the provisions in this bill that the Senate is not that the supporters of the bill in the Senate are not serous about controlling illegal immigration. Even with the employment verification provisions that are in there, you know, it does include an electronic verification system but it only allows well, first of all, it has no definite implementation date because it requires the appropriators to appropriate $400 million before an 18-month countdown starts before employers have to use the system. So, as soon as they come up with the $400 million then we can start the countdown.

But it also, in any event, even if it does get implemented, it doesn't ever require employers to go back and verify their current employees; it only applies to new hires. So, essentially every illegal alien who currently has a job is grandfathered in. And so any of the few who don't get or don't apply for amnesty, as long as they can keep their jobs, they have no problem at all; they don't have to leave. Because the bill also limits the ability of state and local law enforcement to enforce immigration law, to assist in the enforcement of immigration law even in the normal course of their duties, it makes it that much less likely that an illegal alien is going to get caught as long as he keeps his job.

What it does on the state and local law enforcement issue is limit them to enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of only criminal violations of the immigration laws. So, for example, if a state trooper pulls over an illegal alien and it turns out that he entered the country illegally across the border, then the trooper can apprehend him and turn him over to the feds. If on the other hand it turns out that he's just violated terms of his visa, that's a civil violation. Does the trooper have to let him go? Who knows?

We've heard a ton in the press recently about OTMs, or Other Than Mexicans, and we've been told repeatedly that the administration is going to stop the catch and release policy. Well, apparently the Senate doesn't believe the administration because they have a provision in here that would actually, allegedly, stop the catch and release policy by requiring detention pending removal of all non-Mexicans who are apprehended trying to enter the country illegally; however, there's another provision in the bill that would appear to somewhat amend this by saying that it authorizes DHS to grant voluntary departure in lieu of the normal formal removal process to any alien except aggravated felons and national security threats. So, basically it changes catch and release to catch, detain briefly, and then release. When the number of OTMs has gone from about 35,000 in 2002 to 165,000 last year, we've got a real issue with this and probably catch, detain briefly, and then release is not the right answer.

On issues of document fraud, these various amnesties are an open invitation to a huge new industry in document fraud. The cartels that specialize in document fraud are already gearing up. They are producing the templates. They already in fact produce things like utility bills and car registrations and everything you would need to show you've been in the country for two-to-five years to for five years and beyond.

But by allowing aliens to use as proof of employment things like sworn affidavits from non-relatives and remittance receipts, essentially if you're the, you know, neighborhood drug dealer and you've been sending money home to mom from your drug proceeds, you're going to have remittance receipts and show that you were gainfully employed. So, again, everyone benefits unless they have the misfortune to have been actually caught doing something very bad.

And you may all remember that the Senate debated, a couple of times at least, whether or not we should make criminals ineligible for amnesty. The first time is was roundly defeated, just no way that was going to go anywhere because of course the criminals deserved amnesty too. But and by the way I have to apologize to Steve I told him I would keep the sarcasm out of my voice but I just can't do it (laughter) the second time the criminal issue came up a compromise was passed, a compromise on criminals and whether they should be eligible for amnesty. And what it essentially says is that if you have been formally ordered removed, if you have been convicted of three or more misdemeanors or a felony, then you won't qualify unless DHS gives you a waiver, or unless your formal removal was only based on illegal entry or overstaying or some other small immigration related crime or administrative violation.

So essentially, the number of waivers in this, anything you think you've heard is a flat our rule, don't buy it; it's not . . . there's a waiver for everything. In fact, there's a provision that says that if employers who, well if employers violate the law that says don't hire illegal aliens, they can be debarred from federal contracts, from receiving federal contracts. And then there's a provision right after that that says, well, we're going to let the agency that wants to contract with them decide whether they should be debarred from federal contracts. (Laughter.)

Yeah, this bill is essentially a lawyers bonanza and of course on illegal alien's bonanza. There are no limits to this thing. It needs to be roundly defeated and put down. They're just very few positive things anyone can say about it and what positive things are in it are in the House bill.

MR. CAMAROTA: Well, thank you, Rosemary. (Chuckles.) Michael, please.

MICHAEL MAXWELL: Thank you, Steve. I'm happy to be here this morning. I'd like to give you a little bit of background this morning on what was happening within USCIS before Senate deliberations. And since the Senate has passed this bill, I would like to spend a little bit of time this morning also talking about the logistical hurdles that USCIS will face in implementing the temporary worker program. And then we'll touch finally on fraud and national security issues, that are near and dear to my heart, that the bill brings to bear.

In December of 2005, I was asked to sit on a policy planning group regarding the temporary worker program. On that group was a DHS liaison to the secretary's office, Michael Biggs, the director of human resources for USCIS, the director of training and professional development for USCIS and myself, the director of security and investigations. In response to the pending Specter markup, we were tasked with developing three plans for presentation for Secretary Chertoff. Those three plans had one goal: we were to hire well, recruit, hire, train, and conduct background investigations on up to 10,000 new federal employees within nine months, and within that same nine- month period conduct background investigations on up to 11 million alien applicants looking for a change of status, immigration status.

We had seven days to put these three plans together, and seven days later I wrote a memo to the chief of staff, which I have here with me, that said these are unrealistic expectations and here's why: in order to recruit hire and train up to 10,000 new employees, you have to a have a workforce of 10,000 federal employees it doesn't exist that are trained immigration officers. So you'd have to train them. That training process, that training cycle, can take up to 12 weeks. On top of that, the background clearance process for those federal employees is onerous at best. And our best estimate, our conservative estimate, was that it could take up to a year to clear that many new federal or contract employees before they could even have access to the terrorist databases they needed to have access to, to conduct thorough background investigations on these 11 million new applicants.

There was also a cost associated with implementing this plan within USCIS, and my office alone was looking at a cost of $40 million just to conduct background investigations on the new temporary workforce implementing the temporary worker program, so an additional $40 million from my office alone. All told, it was a year to 18 months before we felt we could begin providing immigration benefits to temporary workers. That came with one important caveat and one important warning to senior management at USCIS: By putting unrealistic timelines in front of us, you have to be willing to accept the national security risk that goes with incomplete background checks on these aliens and we'll get into that in just a minute.

The [Senate] bill contains some interesting language that the FBI is very attuned to right now. It states that within 90 days of an application being sent to the FBI for fingerprint or name checks, they will have results of those fingerprint or name checks back to USCIS who will then adjudicate the alien's background clearance and determine whether or not they should receive the immigration benefit.

Well, if you look at the current process as it exists, you'll see that there's a backlog of nearly 200,000 FBI fingerprint checks, and that if the FBI does not respond to the USCIS within 90 days, the alien applicants are automatically, and without a fraud check that's a lovely chart but, again, and automatically, and without a human looking at that application for fraud, granted temporary worker authorization. The computer simply takes the application off the shelf as it approaches the 90-day limit that already exists and is replicated in this bill, and without anybody looking at that application for fraud at all, out goes the employment authorization document, and with that comes the ability to get a Social Security, card, a driver's license, firearms permits, bank accounts, onto aircraft, through ports. Obviously it's a loophole that needs to be closed.

Approximately 20,000 applications for immigration benefits were denied on the basis of fraud in fiscal year 2005. It's thought many of the remaining 800,000 applications that were denied in 2000 were also fraudulent applications. These are important numbers for us to look at, especially when we start talking about asylum waivers for religious persecution. The fraud rate in that area alone is upwards of 30 percent. Thirty percent of all applications in the religious visa program are fraudulent and are being used by enemies of the state, for lack of a better term.

It also tells us that there's a substantial breakdown within USCIS in their ability to conduct background investigations on alien applicants. And, as Steve mentioned earlier, both the GAO and the DHSIG have made this brutally honest, and I would refer you to the GAO report released in March this year and to the IG's report released at the same time the Senate was in deliberation. And I have a few choice quotes from each that I'll leave you with and, hopefully, start you thinking about the national security ramifications that this bill truly presents.

The GAO, on March 10th, made a statement that, Immigration officers lack access to important information and information tools to render good immigration adjudications. They're saying right there that the current system that exists can't handle the 7.5 million applications that went through the pipeline the last fiscal year, never mind another 11 million or more that we're going to add to that burden.

And then in May of this year, the DHS Inspector General made the following statement: Immigration officials run background checks on each alien to determine whether they have a criminal record or are listed on a terrorist watch-list. However, the effectiveness of these background checks is uncertain due to the difficulty DHS has in verifying the identity, country of origin, terrorist or criminal affiliation of aliens in general. It's a very polite way that Mr. Skinner is stating, we don't know who's applying for benefits; we can't conduct a thorough background investigation, never mind within 90 days, and guarantee that we're not granting the wrong benefit to the wrong person at the wrong time.

And I'll leave it at that. Thank you.

MR. CAMAROTA: Okay, well thank you. Okay, well I'd like to open it up for questions to anyone who'd like to sure, go ahead, John.

Q: There was an ICE raid at Dulles Airport yesterday. Apparently 50 illegal aliens were apprehended. One apparently had some secure access throughout the airport. Do you have any comments on that?

SEN. SESSIONS: I'm glad that the ICE teams are beginning to focus on some of the more secure areas, but anybody that looks at the entire country can recognize that this is just a small portion of the problem we're facing. There's so many different ways that dangerous aliens could threaten our country that we're not working on at this moment that I think would indicate to me what I would see from this is that this first of all shows how pervasive the problem is, and it indicates how big a challenge we face. The best way to bring this under control, of course, is to have a legally effective system that works from the beginning, and we'd have a lot less stress.

So I'm glad that they're making some improvement, that they're stepping forward more aggressively than they have in the past, but it's still a very small step.

MR. CAMAROTA: Other questions? Go ahead, right here.

Q: Rosemary, you mentioned children being brought in to the (off mike). Who will take care of these children?

MS. JENKS: Taxpayers. I don't know who it doesn't actually address who they would go and live with.

Q: But who would provide a family, or are we going to build orphanages?

MS. JENKS: Not addressed. They just come and then magic takes care of them, you know. It's not addressed.

MR. CAMAROTA: Yes, go ahead.

Q: Yes, a question for Mr. Maxwell. Do you think that the security situation (off mike) whether we should have more (off mike)?

MR. MAXWELL: The background clearance process is so ineffective that 45,000 high-risk aliens from state sponsors of terrorism have been released into the general population since 2001. We just could not verify who they were, their true country of origin, and whether or not they're affiliated with terrorist groups. So it does lend some credence to the fact that we need to reengineer the background-check progress. And if that included a moratorium on this program or others, then, on the basis of national security, it's something that we should seriously consider.

MR. CAMAROTA: Over here. Yes.

Q: Just a quick question for Mr. Maxwell. You recently left DHS. Care to comment on the circumstances for that?

MR. MAXWELL: Yeah, sure. I left DHS in February of this year after nearly two years as the director of the Office of Security and Investigations. And I left so that I could speak freely with Congress about the national security vulnerabilities that I'd uncovered as head of Internal Affairs, within the immigration process.

Q: Have you ever been called to testify?

MR. MAXWELL: I have testified before the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Nonproliferation. And there have been some private briefings as well, and I suspect there will be more hearings in the future.

Q: Senator, could you bring us up to speed on the status of discussions to resolve the conference issue and how and when do you think that blue-slip dilemma will be resolved?

SEN. SESSIONS: I really don't know. I haven't had a discussion in any depth at all with the leadership in the Senate, Republican leadership. Apparently, discussion is going on in the Senate side. It does appear now that there's a firm commitment from the House to execute the blue slip. Chairman Thomas, I think, made that clear the other day, which was all expected but had not been committed yet.

MR. CAMAROTA: Do you want to tell people what the blue slip is?

EN. SESSIONS: Yeah, basically if you pass a bill in the Senate that involves tax enhancements, or even the House includes spending, that has not first originated in the House, then the House refuses to deal with it because the Constitution says revenue bills must commence in the House. And so they just it's an important constitutional revision that protects House prerogatives, and the do it on every kind of bill. I'm aware of very few times they've waived it, frankly. Even on miniscule matters, Chairman Archer used to I had to try to deal with him one time and I got nowhere on a very minor issue. (Laughter.) So, I mean, that's a legitimate thing. So that means that the Senate would need to pass the bill again to get it to the house.


Q: I'm most grateful that Senator Sessions is talking about this, and forgive me for asking this question. What does it say about the U.S. Senate that this bill is so very different from what the House passed?

SEN. SESSIONS: Well I think the problem with the Senate bill let me just say it this way: An honest debate can occur as to whether or not we should have passed a comprehensive bill or an enforcement-only bill. I said at the beginning I thought we should do an enforcement first; that was my opinion. I did not challenge the motives or integrity of those who said a better approach would be comprehensive.

What I am shocked and disappointed deeply with is that the comprehensive bill is so flawed. And it's so poorly thought-out that we've never even discussed a Canadian-type system. We've never discussed how many people might actually come in under this bill. When it originally hit the floor, we believed that it could've it was certainly, I think, 90 (million) to 200 million people could've come in under bill that they proposed, legally, in the next 20 years. Nobody had discussed whether that was a legitimate approach to immigration. They had no discussion of what impact this would have on low- and middle-class working American's wages and whether or not we could sustain it. Nobody discussed the fact that low-skilled workers have a disproportionate drain on welfare.

Some have the idea that increased immigration will solve Social Security. Robert Rector said this could not be a more false concept. And every economist I've read have said that large numbers of low-skilled workers are going to take more out of the economy than put in, and therefore it's going to destabilize and make it harder to fix Social Security. But you talk to experts on Wall Street; they think it's going to fix social security. How silly is that?

So to me the problem is that the enforcement does not appear to be effective, does not appear to work, and the long-range policy for our nation has had no public discussion whatsoever. I think it's a colossal disaster in the making, and it just needs to stop. We need to start over again if we're going to do comprehensive work.

MR. CAMAROTA: Yes, go ahead.

Q: Senator, as you know, under NAFTA the way is paved for a huge influx of trucks on the highways connecting Mexico to Canada, through the United States, and it's very unlikely that there would be any significant inspection of all but a fraction of those trucks coming through. And that could be a way in which countless tens of thousands additional illegals could come into the United States. Is there any serious consideration of revisiting NAFTA, or at least this provision of NAFTA, by you and the authorities?

SEN. SESSIONS: Well, that may come up as a matter of discussion. I think NAFTA is not going to be reengineered as a result of this, but I think CBO's numbers indicate they expect that we're not going to have serious reduction in illegal immigration, although I think we can have some, frankly. If we get serious and tighten this bill up and make the workplace work and make the border better, I think we can make a big improvement.

The workplace has got to be effective. If we can eliminate the magnet of a job, then I think you'll have far less people wanting to come. You make it harder to come, send the word out to the world that the border is no longer wide open; number two, that even if you got past the border, you're not going to be able to get a job, I think we could expect to see a reduction in the flow of illegal workers.

I am troubled that CBO concludes that the way we have written enforcement in the Senate bill will not reduce illegal immigration at all. According to the numbers they've given, it's just going to remain the same for the next 10 years.

MR. CAMAROTA: Other questions? Anyone at all? Go ahead.

Q: I'm wondering if you could just give us a quick contrast of your estimate (off mike).

MR. MAXWELL: Illegalized, not future legal immigration.

Q: And can you just if you can just summarize how your numbers square with Senator Sessions.

MR. MAXWELL: Yes, he's talking about there are changes in the way future legal immigration will work in the United States different, new categories created, and/or changes in existing caps on certain categories and how they interact and how that will occur; that's what his main focus was on. What I was talking about is how many people here illegally can be expected to get amnesty and eventual green cards, LPR sets.

SEN. SESSIONS: And we were more conservative in our numbers than the 13.5 or 14.4 million, I believe. We were remember what we were on that, Cindy (sp)?

MS. JENKS: Actually, it was a little bit different.


S. JENKS: For the 20-year period, we had about 18.9, but we didn't (off mike) say that 70 percent or 90 percent are going to (off mike).

SEN. SESSIONS: The reason the numbers really, we think, are huge in the out years is because in about 10 years a person can become a citizen by right under this bill. Isn't that about right, Steve?

MR. CAMAROTA: Yeah, I mean, conceivably there are people who might get it faster, but in general that's when it's supposed to

(Cross talk.)

SEN. SESSIONS: And so in that second 10 years, if you're a citizen you can bring in your parents as a matter of right. Now, we don't have any numbers, I think, for that, but that's clearly a lot people will bring in their parents who will then be entitled to medical care in the United States and that kind of thing. So there's a lot in the chain-migration issue that has not been thought through at all.

Q: What would the impact be of 50 (million) to 70 million newcomers over the next 20 years? What sort of nation would we be looking at?

SEN. SESSIONS: I would just say it this way: At the rate we are operating now, which is about a million legal and maybe a half a million to 800,000 illegal let's say 2 million a year that would be 24 million over 20 years. I think we are already beginning to feel an impact at the workplace that is driving down wages of low- and middle-income workers. I don't think there's any doubt about that. I think that's an absolute fact. So when you more than double that to 70 million almost three times that I think you'll have much greater adverse economic impacts for our country. And it's harder to assimilate the larger the numbers become.

MR. MAXWELL: Yeah, as a demographer let me give you another impact that's pretty straightforward; we can't really debate it. Under current law, immigration over 50 years will make the United States 80 (million) to 100 million people larger than it otherwise would've been; that is people who haven't come yet but who will come, plus their descendents. That's the Census Bureau's kind of estimate, about 80 (million) to 100 million under current law. So if you doubled the number of people coming in, you can roughly double that number so that instead being 80 (million) to 100 million larger, we'd be 160 (million) to 200 million larger. So we're talking about maybe becoming, from a nation today of 300 million, maybe a nation of 500 million people. And if you're a person concerned about issues of congestion and sprawl and pollution and loss of open space, then obviously a nation that's 200 million bigger those things have you know, that has implications for those kinds of concerns.

MS. JENKS: And on all infrastructures: schools, hospitals, housing. I mean, everything across the board has to increase to sustain that population. So it's a massive impact on the United States.

SEN. SESSIONS: So I think a smart nation should I think a smart nation should think this thing through seriously. And the first thing they must decide is that the nation should act in what is in its legitimate self-interest. That's the first thing about it. That's what Professor Borjas says in his book. He assumes the nation will act in their self-interest. And I think if you do that you'll develop a system like Canada that will allow immigration at a rate that's consistent with the national needs and not treat it as if there's an entitlement program and create laws that give entitlements to people all over the world to come here, regardless of whether or not that's in the interest of the United States. They have no entitlement under historical law or morality to come to any nation, but we will, in effect, have created that kind of entitlement program that I think is a represents a lack of clarity in our own thought. And it's one of the major flaws that I see in the legislation, that we're not seriously considering how to make this thing work for the national interest.

MR. CAMAROTA: We can take maybe one or two more questions, if there are any. Or otherwise, once we go you can accost us. The senator has to go and make a vote

SEN. SESSIONS: That's what they pay me for.

MR. CAMAROTA: But any additional questions? Right here. Go ahead.

Q: Senator Sessions, could you talk about the implications for the upcoming elections and the Republican Party's split on immigration?

SEN. SESSIONS: Well, almost 60 percent of Republican senators voted against the bill. I think that's something that's been lost sight of. And so I think, from the people I talked to that voted against it feel very good about their position. And of course, about, what, 90 percent of the House Republicans or more voted for an enforcement-only bill that I think they feel comfortable being able to defend.

But I do believe the American people are concerned about it deeply. They are rightly suspicious. The American people's morality, the American people's understanding of law and the need for a lawful entry system, their understanding of the economics of the matter and how it impacts jobs and wages is so far superior to that of the politicians it almost takes your breath away. The American people have been right for 30 years. All they've asked for is a lawful system of immigration that works and that protects their jobs and their economics standing. Why can't the people understand that?

Some have got it in their heads that we've got to have this future flow in large, large numbers, and probably have not realized just how large they are in the bill. So some people I think maybe missed comprehending this bill, and maybe they can explain it. But I do believe the American people are going to watch that vote in this election.

Q: If I could just follow up on that quickly. Can the Republicans go especially the House Republicans and (off mike) can they go to the polls without any bill and be okay without having any bill at all?

SEN. SESSIONS: Well, the House has given us a bill. They've passed a bill. That's there answer to that, right out. The Senate has claimed to have passed an enforcement bill. You know, it's part of our bill and we claim it works, and some of the things in it are good. It just doesn't quite get there. I've compared it to jumping eight feet but it's a 10-foot cavern. And if you don't get across it, you fall to the bottom. And so we're not quite there yet. So you could do that.

And then, I don't think the American people are going to react positively to just a some comprehensive bill to say we passed something. I think they're going to read it and they're going to ask tough questions about it, and the gap between where the American people are and where the Senate is on future flow and those kind of things is larger than most people realize.

MR. CAMAROTA: Thank you very much. There will be a transcript of this, and it will be posted on our website. All of our research is at www.cis.

I want to thank everyone for joining us, especially Senator Sessions, and the other panelists as well. We really appreciate it. Thank you.