Amnesty bill heads to Senate floor


Yesterday, while Tea Party activists made their stand against the IRS, the amnesty bill finished its journey through the Senate Judiciary Committee. It now heads to the Senate floor.

According to The Hill, the bill has some good things in it:

It would allocate billions of dollars to securing the Southwestern border and tracking visas at airports and seaports around the country. It would make E-Verify mandatory for employers across the country to crack down on illegal workers and deter future waves of illegal immigration.

Unsurprisingly, the bad far outweighs the good:

On Monday, Democrats on the committee voted against Cornyn’s amendment to remove the secretary of Homeland Security’s discretion to waive deportation rules for immigrants found guilty of three misdemeanors.

Throughout the markup, which took place on four days over several weeks, Graham and Flake stuck with Democrats to defeat Republican amendments that would have endangered the bill.

They voted against GOP proposals to implement a system to track visas using biometric data at border crossing points, to drastically increase the number of border patrol agents and aerial drones along the southern border and to require effective control of the borders six months before granting millions of illegal immigrants legal status.

The best part? The costs are unknown:

The cost of the legislation was a source of debate between supporters and opponents of the bill….

The bill passed committee without a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a point of concern for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a member of Judiciary and the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.

Sessions sent a letter to CBO in April asking for a long-term estimate of the bill’s costs.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has some crocodile tears over how harsh the bill is – and even goes so far as to demonize Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) union chief Chris Crane, who has spoken out on numerous occasions about the amnesty bill’s lack of enforcement. From the Times’ editorial:

And then the bill will need to find some path through the Republican-led House. Over those horizons lies another rumbling threat — from employees of the Department of Homeland Security. Leaders of two of their unions have joined antireform hard-liners in trying to kill the bill, showing an unbending hostility to its goals.

This is bad news, given that these unions will be charged with making immigration reform work in the real world. The union leaders are Chris Crane of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, which represents 7,700 deportation agents, and Kenneth Palinkas of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, whose 12,000 members will be handling the paperwork of millions of immigrants seeking to legalize their status if reform happens. Mr. Crane, a familiar figure among the hard-right fringe, wrote a letter to Congress this month bitterly denouncing the bill; Mr. Palinkas on Monday signed onto it.

While Mr. Crane has  has opposed this version of “immigration reform,” he has definitively been on the record as being in favor of legitimate reformations. One of Mr. Crane’s concerns about the existing bill, that ICE agents will not be able to do their job, has a very recent and disturbing precedent. From back in April:

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano does not have the authority to refuse to enforce laws that require illegal immigrants to face deportation, according to the federal judge hearing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement union’s lawsuit against DHS.

“The court finds that DHS does not have discretion to refuse to initiate removal proceedings [when the law requires it],” U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor said Wednesday, per Business Week. O’Connor asked DHS and the ICE union to offer additional arguments before he makes a final ruling on the legality of President Obama’s “deferred action on childhood arrivals” program, which invoked prosecutorial discretion as a means of allowing people to stay in the country if they would have qualified for amnesty under the Dream Act, which never passed Congress.

The existing amnesty bill gives Secretary Napolitano a great deal of latitude regarding her job as Secretary of DHS. It is clear that she is willing to use latitude when it’s not legal; imagine what she will do if it’s part of her job description?

At any rate, this bill is moving through the Senate, and the body is likely to take it up in June. You know the drill – let’s start calling our Senators to tell them to oppose the bill. We know it’s going to be a close vote; your efforts could be the difference between victory and defeat.