Immigration "reform" would be a disaster

Lawrence B. Lindsey - former chief economic adviser to President Bush and a supporter of "reform" - offers this:
...Comprehensive immigration reform promises that people already in the United States illegally can apply for citizenship, but requires them to "go to the back of the line." But a key question is, the back of which line? The reform bill before the Senate doesn't require illegal immigrants to go back home--to, say, Hong Kong, to the end of the 10-to-15-year line there--to get a green card. Instead, it allows the current illegals to receive their green card immediately--having, in effect, jumped the line at the U.S. consulate abroad. Then, like other green card holders, they will be able to work here, collect government benefits like food stamps and Medicaid, and travel as freely as if they had a U.S. passport.

The line the current illegals will go to the back of is the citizenship line. Under the proposed law, current illegals, newly minted green card in hand, will have to wait six years, then get in line to apply for citizenship. But even after six years, they will be years ahead of many people who have gone through the legal process and are waiting overseas for a consular official to let them come here. Once those who have been playing by the rules all along get here, they too have to wait six years before getting in line for citizenship.

If we really mean "the back of the line," that should be behind everyone who is already in the pipeline to come here legally. If you are granted your green card under the new "guest worker" system, you shouldn't be able to apply for citizenship until after everyone already on queue has had their citizenship adjudicated. It's a simple matter of not rewarding people for line-jumping.

This is more than an appeal for elementary fairness. There is a very practical reason to prevent queue jumping: It helps consular officials keep order on the front lines of immigration policy. How can anyone enforce the rules for entry to America if line-jumping becomes the law of the land? Once the world knows that we make citizenship easier for those who break the rules, enforcing the rules becomes a nonstarter.

We supporters of immigration reform correctly deride the "ship them home" crowd for gross impracticality. But any kind of queue-jumping allowed by a new reform will create a law-enforcement nightmare for every American consulate on the planet...

...But there is a difference between bureaucratic slowness and rigidity and the complete breakdown of the process. In 2004 the INS issued 946,000 green cards and naturalized 537,000 people. The proposed immigration reform anticipates giving green cards to up to 11 million people in one fell swoop and making them eligible for citizenship six years later. It is inconceivable that the INS could handle an eleven-fold increase in its workload...

Nor would this problem be easy to solve, even if Congress and the president were willing to budget for the flood of new work brought on by reform. Government bureaucrats require recruitment, background investigations by the Office of Personnel Management, training, and supervision by experienced personnel...

Then there is the issue of software--a term that covers a host of troubles. The proposed law contemplates that those issued "guest worker" status will be allowed to apply for citizenship if they perform the normal functions of citizens: paying their taxes, not breaking the law, and so on. Are we going to link the new "Earned Citizenship" program computer to the IRS computer to make sure taxes have been paid? How is the new program going to link with hundreds of state and local law enforcement authorities to discover which individuals have been law abiding?

...With so many political factions benefiting from the perception of failure, the current lack of forethought about these problems is stunning.

...In theory, the "reform"-oriented Senate bill is supposed to be combined with an "enforcement"-oriented House bill in conference to produce "comprehensive" reform. But substantial parts of the "reform" coalition have no interest at all in "enforcement." This includes many of the advocacy groups who staged the recent demonstrations and some of their political supporters. It probably also includes many employer groups, who have no interest in sanctions, and have embraced the guest worker approach only as a means of dampening demands for tougher enforcement.

...First, "the back of the line" for citizenship must really mean the back of the line. No newly legalized illegal should obtain citizenship before anyone who has already begun the application process. Second, substantial money, manpower, and management skills must be committed as soon as possible to implementing the new immigration procedures. The government must be candid with the public about the enormous magnitude of the effort it is about to undertake. Otherwise, the inevitable missteps will undermine citizens' and would-be immigrants' confidence in our seriousness about the rule of law. Third, the government must make enforcement credible. This may mean physical barriers to entry; it certainly requires stepped-up enforcement at workplaces and by dispensers of government services. Logic would dictate that enforcement, particularly at the border, begin even before all of the administrative apparatus is in place. At the very least, government should act to minimize the size of the problem it faces...
So, why aren't politicians discussing all these nagging little details? Why aren't reporters asking them exactly how they intend to implement their dream legislation?

Since reporters won't do their job on this issue, please go to public appearances by politicians and try to ask them some tough questions.


Eh, over time, IF the laws are ENFORCED, borders more secure, companies fined - it could be practical. Of course the flip-side to this is that we would see major uproar in response. Riots, burnings, robberies, murders, etc... just more of it. It's a double edged sword that has been given to the American people, because it has been ignored for so long.

Someone said it would cost the U.S. 40 billion to do a massive deport, yet the current fleecing on hospitals etc.. is 100 billion. Even if they are legalized, money will not stop being sent abroad. IMO, the best solution is to STOP it, and full speed ahead until it has all been corrected. Nothing short of this would be helpful. Our system and country needs to be set straight.

'Comprehensive' immigration reform won't stop flood of illegals...

Experiencing a little problem finding a trackback link...

We supporters of immigration reform correctly deride the "ship them home" crowd for gross impracticality.

You should have highlighted this part too. How many responsible critics of the current "reform" proposals really support "ship them home", or believe that to be in any way practical, given the numbers?