Just Say No: Congress’s Amnesty First Bill
With lawmakers enjoying their two-week Easter recess, a group of big-government special interests and congressional staffers worked quietly behind closed doors to hammer out an agreement on the last remaining hurdles to a comprehensive overhaul of our nation’s immigration system. Of course, Americans and most lawmakers haven’t seen the details of this grand bargain yet.
According to reports, though, the House-drafted proposal mirrors the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” plan. In other words, there are two separate bipartisan amnesty first bills ready to be unveiled by lawmakers next week. However, amnesty is not the solution to our nation’s problem of unlawful immigration.
Heritage’s Senior Vice President for Legal and Judicial Policy David Addington explains, amnesty “discourages respect for the law, treats law-breaking aliens better than law-following aliens, and encourages future unlawful immigration into the United States.”
Addington goes on to clarify, “Amnesty comes in many forms”:
The term “amnesty” is often used loosely with reference to aliens unlawfully in the United States. Sometimes it refers to converting the status of an alien from unlawful to lawful, either without conditions or on a condition such as a payment of a fee to the government. Sometimes it refers to granting lawful authority for an alien unlawfully in the U.S. to remain in the U.S., become a lawful permanent resident, or even acquire citizenship by naturalization, either without conditions or on a condition such as payment of a fee to the government or performance of particular types of work for specified periods.
Amnesty is also a term bill sponsors will avoid using. Supporters will also avoid talking about the bill’s cost. That is why Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) warning him not to “rush to pass an amnesty bill before the American people know what’s in it.”
In 2007, Heritage’s Robert Rector performed the sort of cost-analysis all lawmakers should have before considering such a sweeping reform. In a recent interview, Rector explained the House and Senate proposals seem to be “virtually identical to the 2007 bill and would be extremely costly to the U.S. taxpayers.” According to Rector, “Granting amnesty or legal status to illegals will generate costs in Medicare and Social Security alone of $2.5 trillion above any taxes paid in.”
Congress has the authority and the responsibility to fix our nation’s immigration system. To do it right, they must take a careful, step-by-step approach. As history has demonstrated, a comprehensive, one-size-fits-all approach is destined to fail. Rather than repeating the mistakes of the past, Congress must chart a new course:
Congress should continue to search for appropriate ways to encourage lawful immigration, reducing the burdens of the immigration process on both the government and lawful immigrants, and making it easier for both America and the lawful immigrants to enjoy the economic and cultural benefits that result from lawful immigration.
Conservatives cannot play the amnesty game with Barack Obama and the left. It will make for bad policy and bad politics.