Any guest-worker program approved by Congress for the nation’s 11 million illegal aliens would spawn a new wave of cheap-labor illegals that already-overwhelmed federal authorities are unprepared to handle, law-enforcement authorities and immigration officials say.
A former high-ranking U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) official said the federal government does not have an adequate post-legalization enforcement program to prevent an expected flood of fraudulent identity documents or sanction employers who hire the new illegals.
“The new illegal aliens will be cheaper than the guest workers, and there will be nobody in the government to check up on them,” said the official, who asked not to be identified. “If there is no enforcement, illegals will pour in, requiring serial amnesties or legalization efforts.”
If any of the guest-worker, or amnesty, plans now pending in Congress are approved, the nation will experience an even greater flood of illegal aliens than in the wake of President Reagan’s 1986 amnesty program, said several officials.
Under the Immigration and Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), INS added 1,000 inspectors — bringing the total to 2,000 — and they were not able to enforce the employer sanctions and fraud laws outlined in the bill, said the former immigration official. The law-enforcement authorities and immigration officials said IRCA was designed to address a population of fewer than 3 million illegal aliens.
“The illegals kept flooding in … and now we have another fine mess, this time with marching in the streets,” he said, adding that newly arriving illegal labor under a guest-worker program will compete against those granted legal status and can be paid less because they will have no recourse or appeal.
“It is not likely that the smuggling and illegal labor industry will just shut down due to a guest-worker program,” he said.
IRCA was considered key among government efforts to revamp its immigration system, a “one-time-only” deal passed by a Republican-controlled Senate, a Democrat-controlled House and approved by Mr. Reagan. It was part of a compromise package between those who wanted to reduce illegal immigration and others who wanted to “wipe the slate clean” by granting legal residency to illegal aliens already in the country.
The act granted legal status to 2.7 million illegal aliens, mostly Mexican nationals who had lived and worked in the United States for anywhere from 90 days for agricultural workers to a year for others. It also granted legal residency to 160,000 of their spouses and children. Although the act mandated employer sanctions, or fines, for those who knowingly hired illegals, they were rarely enforced.
Michael Cuter, a retired INS senior agent who headed major drug investigations for the agency for two decades, said immigration-enforcement systems now in place “lack even a modicum of integrity” and would not be able to handle the workload increase an amnesty program would create.
“If we are unable to determine these aliens’ true identities, we will not be able to determine when they actually entered the United States,” he said. “The proposals requiring these individuals to provide evidence they were in the United States for a specific period of time may sound impressive but, in reality, constitute nothing more than smoke and mirrors.”
“They are trying to convince the American people this is a workable and reasonable system, while not doing anything to enhance border security,” he said, adding that the September 11 Commission report found that the terrorists who attacked the U.S. were able to embed themselves in this country by committing immigration fraud and using loopholes in the immigration system. “This amnesty program, even if you want to call it guest worker, would create nothing but false security.”
Last month, the Government Accountability Office said in a report the Department of Homeland Security does not have a “clear and comprehensive strategy” for imposing sanctions or evaluating its effectiveness in detecting and preventing immigration fraud and is not actively enforcing the administrative penalties provided for by federal law.
Although for fiscal 2005, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied about 13,000 applications, the GAO report said relatively few of them were criminally prosecuted. The report said USCIS had not yet implemented recommendations GAO made to its predecessor agency, INS, in 2002 — when GAO found that immigration fraud was pervasive and significant and the approach to controlling it was fragmented.
The former INS official described the new illegal aliens as “an exploitable pool of cheap labor.” He said they likely will continue to gather at day-labor sites and will continue to be employed with a “wink and a nod.”
“Remember, nobody is there to check up on the employers,” he said.
He called IRCA an example of a serial amnesty, noting that after each legalization in the nation’s history, the illegal alien population increased, requiring another legalization and “another round of protests and street marches.”
Veteran U.S. Border Patrol agent T.J. Bonner, who heads the National Border Patrol Council, said while most politicians understand that the availability of jobs in this country is the “magnet” that lures people to enter illegally, few have embraced legislation that addresses the problem. He said none of the pending legislative proposals contains a provision “that would effectively reduce the employment magnet.”
“Even the allegedly tough immigration-enforcement bill passed by the House last year fails miserably in that regard,” he said, adding that a single counterfeit-proof document that establishes both employment eligibility and identity must be adopted and required of all persons seeking employment in the United States.
The Illegal Immigration Enforcement and Social Security Protection Act of 2005, offered by Rep. David Dreier, California Republican and chairman of the House Rules Committee, would create biometric, machine-readable and fraud-resistant Social Security cards, and set harsher penalties for those who hire illegals. The bill was introduced in 2004 and is pending before a House Education and the Workforce subcommittee.