Today, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer released their extended plan for immigration reform. I still need to read over the document more carefully, but just a glance gives you an idea of what they have in mind: Their proposal is 26 pages long, and 17 of those pages detail ways of improving enforcement.
First, the good news. The last three pages include the Holy Grail of immigration-reform advocates: a "path to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants. The proposal would also forbid individual states and municipalities from enacting their own rules on immigration -- say goodbye to Arizona's SB 1070.
But these provisions come at a high cost. First, the framework specifies that the enforcement provisions must take place before the legalization process begins. Broadly, the enforcement plan calls for hiring thousands of new border patrol agents, building more Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, and installing "high-tech ground sensors throughout the southern border." (A Bush-era plan to use satellite technology to build a "virtual fence" is abandoned.) The proposal also:
- Requires the Department of Homeland Security to "promptly identify, investigate, and initiate removal proceedings against every alien" who overstays a visa.
- Stiffens penalties and sanctions for those who violate immigration law.
- Social Security cards will go biometric but will only serve as proof of authorization to work in the country, not citizenship.
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will conduct undercover investigations of private companies to see if they are complying with immigration law.
- Penalties on companies that employ undocumented immigrants will be increased.
- Employers will be required to pay low-skilled immigrants not working in the agriculture field a higher wage than it pays citizens.
Also, here are some of the stranger portions of the proposal:
- Property owners near the border won't be liable for injuries illegal immigrants suffer if police catch them on their property.
- Convicted sex offenders won't be able to petition the government for citizenship on behalf of a foreign national.
So far, it looks like the bill harshly punishes those who would illegally try to come to the U.S. in the future and goes easier -- though by no means easy -- on those who've already made it here. Quite plainly, the only difference between the two classes of people that would be created by the bill is timing.
-- Gabriel Arana