Wednesday, May 23, 2007

In the week since the new immigration bill was unveiled, the White House and its allies have embarked on a brazen spin campaign. But some lawyers who have been poring through the more than 300-page bill — a legislative behemoth that could reach nearly 1,000 pages — and what the lawyers have found thus far is troubling.

According some detailed analyses of the legislation circulating among staffers and lobbyists on Capitol Hill, the bill includes provisions that: 1) contradict assertions that those granted amnesty under the bill will have to go “to the back of the line” behind prospective immigrants who have followed the rules; 2) belie claims that the bill would “increase” penalties for illegally entering or re-entering the United States; 3) could make it easier for some illegal aliens who sexually abuse minors to get amnesty; 4) do not end the policy of “catch and release” for illegal aliens coming from countries other than Mexico; and 5) would, contrary to all of the reassurances we regularly hear, enable many illegals to evade payment of back taxes. And this only scratches the surface of what is wrong.

For one thing, the enforcement standards or “triggers” that ostensibly will have to be met for amnesty to occur apply only to one of the myriad amnesty programs contained in the bill: the guest-worker program. And the trigger does not require the completion of the U.S. Visit exit system, which is essential to ensuring that future guest workers or other visa recipients do not overstay their visits. In demanding amnesty, advocates often say it is necessary because illegals have deep “American” roots. But under this bill, illegals who entered between Jan. 7, 2004 and Jan. 1, 2007 would be given the same amnesty benefits as those who have been living in the United States for decades and have children who were born here. Additionally, people who waited in line to come in the legal way would have to start the process over if they filed their applications after May 1, 2005. So much for the notion of fairness.

Will the legislation end “catch and release?” Not exactly. Illegals from countries other than Mexico who are caught at the border could be released on $5,000 bond. Will it increase penalties for re-entering the United States illegally? No. Penalties would remain the same as in current law: six months for a first offense, two years for subsequent ones. Also, aggravated felons who have already pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a child would be eligible for a so-called Z visa under the bill if their crime occurred before it was signed into law. And what about those back taxes? Right now there are contradictory interpretations of how much of a windfall illegals will get: one legal analysis has it that the Senate bill only requires the payment of federal back taxes, but contains no requirement to pay state and local back taxes. But the Bush administration has reportedly agreed to waive federal taxes and penalties as well.

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