- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Barring any last-minute filibuster attempts, the Senate is expected to pass its “comprehensive” immigration reform bill this week. As such, now is as good a time as any to remind not just readers but also senators what they are actually voting for:

• Amnesty for 10 or more million illegal aliens. Whether they are allowed to remain or return to a “port of entry,” 85 percent of those who broke the laws to enter the country can apply for citizenship. A proposed amendment from Sens. John Cornyn and Jon Kyl to bar criminals from applying for amnesty was reduced during negotiations to only illegal aliens who had committed more than one felony or three misdemeanors. Those convicted of infinite “immigration-related” felonies or misdemeanors would still be eligible.

Everyone who applies would also be entitled to collect Social Security benefits based on past illegal employment, even if that employment was obtained fraudulently. Any senator brave enough to guess how much sooner this brings us to Social Security insolvency?

• A guest-worker program. Although reduced to 200,000 workers per year from 325,000 (not to mention an automatic annual 20 percent increase), the guest-worker plan will dwarf the 10 million amnestied immigrants by 2026. The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector puts the two-decade estimate at 66 million new immigrants. The director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services scoffed at the notion that his bureaucracy could accommodate such an influx of applicants in the time allotted by the Senate. “Quite frankly, I don’t think that’s really practical,” he said.

• A centrally planned immigrant labor market. Buried inside the guest-worker provisions is an extension of the Davis-Bacon Act, which mandates “prevailing wages” to workers in specific industries contracted by the federal government. The bill would extend “prevailing wage” laws to include immigrant workers in all private sector jobs, even those not covered by Davis-Bacon. A “Temporary Worker Task Force” made up of 10 political appointees and the secretary of Labor would choose which industries have unmet labor demands and devise a prevailing wage employers must pay to their immigrant workers.

According to the Heritage Foundation’s Tim Kane, the extension would effectively bring 5 percent of the U.S. labor market under federal control, rendering arguments coming from the right favoring a guest-worker program on free-market grounds absurd. For instance, the Wall Street Journal editorial page attacked “anti-immigration conservatives” yesterday for “showing they don’t believe in free labor markets.” If by “free” they mean markets controlled by 10 bureaucrats sitting in the Department of Labor, we plead guilty.

• Promises of enforcement and increased border security. Despite rhetoric coming from the White House, the Senate has done all it can to reduce the kind of tough enforcement measures needed to stem the tide of illegal immigration. Employers that have hired illegal immigrants in the past are explicitly protected in the Senate bill from all prior penalties. Not that those mattered much anyway, considering that the number of employers fined each year declined from 417 in 1999 to just three in 2004.

Regarding the border, while the 15,000 additional Border Patrol agents over six years are an encouraging — though insufficient — bright spot, the much-hyped 370 miles of fencing covers about a third of what’s needed. Otherwise, the bill’s a peach.

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