The Senate immigration bill is huge windfall for illegal-alien absconders — fugitives who ignored an immigration judge's order to leave the country. Following the September 11 attacks, federal immigration officials were troubled by the fact that they did not know the whereabouts of approximately 314,000 immigrants who had been ordered deported. While Congress and the Bush administration have talked tough since then about dealing with such aliens, their numbers have more than doubled to approximately 636,000 today. These aliens run the gamut from persons ordered deported for their involvement in terrorist activities to criminals convicted of everything from shoplifting to DUI to murder.
Two days ago, the Senate voted 64-35 in favor of shutting off debate on the immigration bill. Today, the legislation (S. 1639) faces another important procedural vote, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid once again requiring at least 60 votes for cloture. If Mr. Reid and amnesty proponents prevail, the biggest illegal-alien winners will be the fugitives — the very people who have deliberately violated court orders. According to Kris Kobach, who served as Attorney General John Ashcroft's top adviser on immigration issues, under Section S. 601(f)(2) of the Senate bill, amnesty — for fugitives and illegals alike — must begin within 180 days of the bill's signing into law — without any "border enforcement triggers" being met.
Moreover, under Section 601 (d)(1)(I) of the bill, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would be permitted to grant Z visas to fugitives if the recipient can demonstrate that his or her departure from the United States "would result in extreme hardship to the alien or the alien's spouse, parent or child." The term is an extraordinary flexible one that has been vigorously debated by immigration advocates and lawyers dating back to the 1970s. Myriad factors ranging from the alien's age to his health to the length of time he has spent in the United States to his financial status and the economic and political conditions in his home country could influence this decision. Moreover, the absconder can receive amnesty if he demonstrates that his removal could cause hardship to his family. Immigration lawyers can easily argue that the violator should be permitted to remain in the United States because his child is a citizen, and therefore the separation of family members would constitute "extreme hardship."
The most disturbing thing about all of this, Mr. Kobach says, is the fact that this "offers a massive reward to aliens who have defied immigration courts. Successfully fleeing justice can win absconders the most generous visa ever created, as well as de facto permanent residence in the United States. Aliens who obeyed their removal orders and left the country are ineligible." In other words, if senators vote for cloture today, they will be voting for a pernicious incentive system that rewards people who broke U.S. law but gives the back of the hand to those who followed it.