Background: The Senate will soon consider the so-called "Gang of 8 bill," a comprehensive package of reforms to the nation's immigration system. The legislation (S. 744) provides amnesty to roughly 11 million illegal aliens within six months of enactment by granting them temporary legalized status. The Heritage Foundation defines amnesty as follows:
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 comes in many forms, but in all its variations, it discourages respect for the law, treats law-breaking aliens better than law-following aliens, and encourages future unlawful immigration into the United States.
Amnesty Now: Within six months, S. 744 affords almost everyone who entered the country illegally prior to 2012, the opportunity to apply for "registered provisional immigrant" (RPI) status. Each individual would be required to loosely demonstrate that they were in the country before 2012 pass a background check, pay a $500 fine and "back taxes" (taxes "assessed" based on submitted tax returns, not all that is owed). They would obtain Social Security numbers, be eligible for drivers' licenses, and can work freely in the country immediately. The Homeland Security Department (DHS) would only be required to "establish a strategy...to identify where fencing...should be deployed" to achieve operational control over portions of the border ("high-risk sections"). This broad grant of amnesty would include individuals who were previously deported and criminals with up to two misdemeanors (not including the illegal entry).
Citizenship Later: After ten years, these newly legalized aliens will be offered green cards or "legal permanent residency" if they pay a miniscule $1,500 fine. Within three years after receiving a green card, they are eligible for citizenship. The DHS merely has to certify that their strategy to secure the border is substantially deployed in "high-risk areas," employment-verification is implemented, and a visa exit-entry system is in place at air and seaports (it is not required at land ports). If after five years DHS certifies that the strategy is not achieved, a border commission is formed to set forth "specific recommendations for policies for achieving and maintaining the border security goals, " but these one-time recommendations have no binding effect. Hence, actual border security is never a precondition to legalization-temporary or permanent.
Impact: S. 744 discourages respect for the rule of law, favors law-breakers over immigrants patiently waiting in line, and encourages future unlawful immigration. It will also further bankrupt the nation-a similar amnesty bill considered in 2007 would have cost $2.5 trillion from providing government benefits to legalized immigrants.