- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2006

Americans against amnesty should breathe a sigh of relief that the Senate’s “compromise” immigration-reform bill, also known as the Hagel-Martinez amendment, fell apart Friday, at least for the time being. Rather than a compromise, it is in fact a smokescreen to hide the legalization of millions of illegal aliens.

The centerpiece of the so-called “compromise” in the Hagel-Martinez amendment is a three-tiered amnesty, instead of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s blanket amnesty for all 11 or so million illegal immigrants. The first group, those who have lived here for five or more years (estimated to be about 8 million people), would be granted blanket amnesty. But so would their spouses and children, even if they do not currently reside in the United States. The second group, those who have lived here two to five years (estimated to be about 1.5 million), would get to stay as long as they at any time within three years leave the country to pick up their work visa. They would also be able to pick up work visas for their spouses and children, who would not have to leave the country.

The final group, those who have lived here less than two years (estimated to be about 1.2 to 1.7 million), are not without a path to citizenship either, however the amendment’s sponsors have described it. They, too, are eligible for work visas under the amendment’s language governing the new guest-worker program. The bill states that in determining an “alien’s admissibility” for the guest-worker program, prohibitive factors “may be waived.” In other words, although the final group is not entitled to amnesty, they may still qualify for residence and not be forced to leave.

There is good reason to assume that many in the last group would do just that. For instance, the Hagel-Martinez amendment would increase employer-sponsored work visas to 450,000 per year, tripling the previous number. But the amendment would also exempt spouses and children from this cap, which would effectively add 540,000 more visas every year. That’s 990,000 employer-sponsored visas every year, or six times the current amount. As Sen. Jeff Sessions has noted, this number is equal to the total number of visas the United States granted this year in all categories, not just employer-sponsored. Add to all this the various loopholes embedded in the amendment and there are very few illegal immigrants who would not qualify for amnesty or a guest-worker visa.

The Congressional Budge Office and the Joint Tax Committee have worked the numbers for Hagel-Martinez and found that direct spending outlays are an estimated $8 billion for the first five years. This far exceeds the $5 billion cap on long-term entitlement spending Congress is allowed in the next 10 years and it dwarfs the $6 million allocated to the Judiciary Committee to spend in the next five years. By 2016, CBO estimates, the direct cost of Hagel-Martinez could reach $27 billion, while discretionary spending could be $30 billion. CBO’s conclusions, which Mr. Sessions read on the Senate floor, were that Hagel-Martinez grossly violates Congress’ own self-imposed spending restraints.

Considering these unfortunate facts, it was a good thing for Congress to take a two-week vacation. Perhaps that will be enough time to clear away the obfuscations and get serious about immigration.

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