The Senate’s immigration-reform bill grants broad amnesty to illegal aliens and is even worse than previously thought, say House Republicans who have read the 850-page Senate bill and must approve any final legislation that Congress sends President Bush.
“The more people see of this Senate bill, the less they like it,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, said of the bill that was largely penned by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and John McCain, Arizona Republican.
Allowing illegals to collect Social Security benefits based on past illegal work, for instance, is “outrageous,” said Mr. Sensenbrenner.
But few provisions of the Senate bill have caused more head-scratching among opponents than a last-minute amendment that requires the U.S. to consult with Mexican officials before commencement of any fence construction along the border.
“I don’t know what they were thinking on that one,” Mr. Sensenbrenner said.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, said he met last week with a group of hotel executives from Marriott International Inc. who favor increased immigration to bring them more cheap labor to work as hotel maids. He told them about the consultation requirement.
“People in the front of the room were saying, ‘No. No. That’s not possible,’ ” he recounted. “Really,” he told them. “I’m not making this up.”
The provision was inserted in the bill moments before it was voted on at the behest of Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat. It says soliciting views “of affected communities lessen tensions and foster greater understanding.”
“It is simply common sense and common courtesy to consult those individuals in our own communities and in affected communities on the other side of the border before constructing a fence,” Mr. Dodd said.
The consultation amendment, he said, would “foster the kind of cooperation that is vital if we are going to once and for all secure our borders.”
But, Mr. Sensenbrenner said, there are far more serious problems with the Senate bill.
For instance, the bill allows for the discounted in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities for illegal aliens who reside in those states. Meanwhile, legal immigrants and citizens who reside outside that state must still pay the full price.
And while proponents of the bill cringe whenever people say it grants “amnesty” to illegal aliens, they don’t dispute that the bill grants complete amnesty to employers who have illegally hired the millions of aliens and provided the magnet that drew them here in the first place.
And while aliens will be fined $2,000 before obtaining citizenship, opponents say it’s hardly comparable punishment for the array of crimes the illegals have committed while working here. In addition to sneaking across the border, many have counterfeited documentation, committed Social Security fraud and cheated on taxes.
“An American who commits Social Security fraud ends up going to jail. An American who fails to pay taxes for two years ends up in the federal penitentiary,” Mr. Sensenbrenner said. “An illegal alien who does this gets citizenship.”
Mr. Tancredo said he is amazed at how little senators know about illegal entry, considering the importance Americans give it.
“They’ll just trust Ted Kennedy to put this thing together for them,” Mr. Tancredo said.
The president’s prime-time speech last month essentially endorsing the Senate plan and arguing that it does not amount to “amnesty” caused Mr. Tancredo to do a double take.
“It’s all so Clintonesque. It was horrible,” he said, referring to former President Bill Clinton’s penchant for parsing words. “I was listening to President Bush speak on the border, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘I’m listening to Bill Clinton reworking every word, reworking every definition.’”