Sunday, May 20, 2007

The bipartisan immigration “reform” legislation pushed by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and Jon Kyl and others, applauded by Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, and Carlos Gutierrez, the secretary of Commerce, is a disaster in the making. That is not so slowly becoming abundantly clear.

It’s a disaster for national security, for keeping Islamist jihadists out of the country, for exploding the costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, for preserving the rule of law, and for that quaint principle called national sovereignty. From the details that have leaked out thus far, the legislation, which provides amnesty for nearly all of the 12 million (or maybe even 20 million) illegal aliens already here, would swell the size of the welfare state in a way we haven’t seen since Lyndon Johnson imposed his Great Society on us four decades ago. Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican who is likely to lead the fight to save the nation from this disaster, and Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation will reveal at a press conference this morning the details of just how expensive it will be. We’re talking trillions of dollars — that’s not millions or even billions — over the next several decades.

Senate floor debate on the bill begins today, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid clearly wants to force it through before Memorial Day, before senators and everyone else can become familiar with even a fraction of what is in this massive bill, which could run to 800 pages. It was still being written over the weekend. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is said to lean in favor of the bill, yesterday said that at least two weeks would be required for a serious Senate debate on such a complex piece of legislation. We hope he means it when he says “serious debate.” To win the support of conservatives who opposed last year’s immigration bill, the administration agreed that provisions enabling illegals to remain here could only become effective after new border-control measures are in place.

These include the hiring, training and deployment of 5,000 to 6,000 additional Border Patrol agents, increasing the total to approximately 18,000 agents. (Assuming there are 12 million illegals here, this amounts to 2,000 of them getting amnesty for every new Border Patrol agent hired to keep illegals out).

The legislation calls for erecting 370 miles of additional fencing along the U.S.-Mexican border. To put that number in perspective, in October, the Senate passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, calling for 854 miles of fencing. Mr. Hunter protests that the Senate bill in effect “cuts my fence in half.” (Actually, it’s closer to 55 percent.) That assumes of course, that Congress actually keeps its word and appropriates money for the fence. Counting on Congress is always a very big “if.” Another “trigger” requires that the Department of Homeland Security — not a model of bureaucratic efficiency — develop and implement by the end of next year a system to enable employers to quickly verify that job applicants are in the country legally. In exchange for such very modest achievements, the administration and the Senate propose to make enormous and in some cases unacceptable concessions to illegal aliens and their political patrons. Here are some of them:

m Amnesty, document fraud and terrorism: There is good reason to be skeptical of the notion that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — the Homeland Security bureaucracy that will be charged with verifying whether tens of millions of illegals are terrorists and/or criminals, and therefore ineligible to receive amnesty — is up to the job. Over the past four years, the ineptitude of the immigration services bureaucracy has been severely criticized by the Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office and other investigators. This, according to Michael Cutler, who spent more than 25 years as an immigration agent, would “provide millions of illegal aliens who have violated our nation’s borders” with “official identity documents that would enable terrorists to embed themselves in communities around our country as they await instructions to launch the next terrorist attack against against our nation and the people who live in the United States.” Mr. Cutler says the Senate bill should be named the “Terrorist Assistance and Facilitation Act of 2007.”

m Staggering increases in federal, state and local spending, with attendant pressure for tax increases. Mr. Rector of the Heritage Foundation says one major effect of the Senate amnesty bill will be to make approximately 9 million additional persons — many of them low-skilled immigrants — legal permanent residents of the United States who could lawfully benefit from a variety of social programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income and public housing. Over the course of their lifetimes, these people will utilize $2.5 trillion more in government services than they will pay in taxes. American welfare and social services were designed for poor Americans; as a result of amnesty legislation, this legislation would expand the American welfare state to include a significant portion of the population of Mexico. Instead of going home to Mexico at the end of their working years, these elderly beneficiaries of amnesty would remain in this country “and collect public funds for the rest of their lives,” Mr. Rector says.

m The Senate immigration bill includes legislation called the DREAM act, legislation subsidizing college education for illegal aliens. And what a dream it is.

m Illegal aliens who worked using fraudulently obtained Social Security numbers will be able to collect Social Security Disability Insurance.

The Bush administration deludes itself if it believes that the measure can be improved during Senate debate. Right now, the toughest criticism of the bill is coming from labor unions who argue that the amnesty/guest-worker provisions are too strict, and from senators like Mel Martinez of Florida, a Republican who talks of waiving the much-ballyhooed $5,000 fine illegals are meant to pay. If the administration wants to preserve what’s left of its credibility on immigration, it would spare us Mr. Chertoff’s hyperbolic rhetoric that critics of the administration regard anything short of capital punishment to be “amnesty.” The only “capital punishment” coming is what’s likely to happen to the careers of those determined to inflict this disaster on us.

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