- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2007

The more you look at the Senate immigration bill, the more troubling loopholes you find. Two of the most pernicious: One would severely damage the government’s ability to conduct background checks, while the other would provide amnesty to illegal-alien gang members and absconders.

Section 601 (h)(1) of the bill, titled the “Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007,” gives the government only one business day to conduct a background check to determine whether an applicant is a criminal or a terrorist. “Unless the government can find a reason not to grant it by the end of the next business day after the alien applies, the alien receives a probationary Z visa (good from the time of approval until six months after the date Z visas begin to be approved, however long that may be) that lets him roam through the country and seek employment legally,” write Kris Kobach, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Heritage Foundation scholar Matthew Spalding. It is impossible, of course, to determine in a single day whether someone is a terrorist or a criminal. Although the federal government has computer databases containing the names of terrorists and criminals, the information is hardly comprehensive. Much of it is kept by foreign governments or in the form of paper records that cannot be carefully searched in just 24 hours.

“The need for effective background checks is real. During the 1986 amnesty, the United States granted legal status to Mahmoud ‘The Red’ Abouhalima, who fraudulently sought and obtained the amnesty intended for seasonal agricultural workers (even though he was actually employed as a cab driver in New York City.) But his real work was in the field of terrorism,” Messrs. Kobach and Spalding write in a new Heritage Foundation study explaining how the Senate immigration bill would undermine the rule of law. Abouhalima, they said, “went on to become a ringleader in the 1993 terrorist attack against the World Trade Center. Using his new legal status of amnesty, he was able to travel abroad for terrorist training.”

Under Section 601(g)(2) of the bill, illegal-alien gang members would be eligible for amnesty merely by signing a “renunciation of gang affiliation.” This massive loophole would make it so easy for illegal aliens to stay in the country that deporting gang members would no longer be a priority.

Gang-bangers and other criminals, who have been ordered to leave the United States by an immigration judge but defy the ruling, are called absconders. The Senate bill first appears to deny amnesty to absconders in Section 601(d)(1)(B). But Section 601(d)(1)(I) permits U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to grant an absconder a Z visa anyway if he can show that being forced to leave the United States “would result in extreme hardship” to the alien, his spouse, parent or child. The “hardship” provision creates a loophole you can drive a truck through — virtually guaranteeing that this class of fugitive aliens can remain in the United States. As we went to press, Sen. John Cornyn was preparing to offer an amendment to strip from the bill amnesty for absconders and violent gang members.

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