Immigration Hawks: McCain-Flake Bill is Amnesty in Disguise

Immigration hawks have labeled a guest worker bill being pushed by Arizona Republicans Sen. John McCain, Rep. Jeff Flake, and Rep. Jim Kolbe an “amnesty” in disguise. The Arizonans introduced their bill, the Border Security and Immigration Improvement Act (HR 2899), just before Congress’ summer recess. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R.-Colo.), chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, says of the Arizonans’ bill, “It’s a piece of junk. It’s not a guest worker program, it’s like all the others that have been proposed up until this time. They all have some form of amnesty.” “This is not an amnesty,” Flake told HUMAN EVENTS. “There is a $1,500 fine and a longer wait [than for legal immigrants] if an illegal alien wants to obtain legal residency. The status quo is the worst possible outcome.” Flake argued that his bill could lead to fewer aliens’ taking up long-term residence in this country. “Prior to ’86, when we started beefing up the border, we had a circular flow of immigration,” he said. “The average stay of an illegal alien in this country was 2.2 years; now, it is 6.8 years. All we have done is make those who come stay here longer, because it is harder for them to get back in once they leave, and made it more likely that they will bring their families with them.” The bill would grant, on a delayed basis (though they could reside here during the wait), legal permanent residency to anyone among the seven to 11 million illegal aliens in this country who entered before Aug. 1, 2003 and who meets the following requirements:

  • Pays a $1,500 fine.
  • Has steady employment or is an immediate family member of someone who has steady employment and is not likely to become a “public charge.”
  • Is not a convicted criminal or deemed a security risk. This includes those convicted of entering the country illegally, but few illegal aliens are ever so convicted.
  • Has never persecuted anyone on account of race, religion, and the like.
  • Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said this means the estimated five million illegal aliens employed in this country plus their families would effectively receive an amnesty under the bill. The McCain-Flake-Kolbe bill would also allow employers to import an unlimited number of foreign workers to this country as long as they advertised in a government database for Americans first and paid a fee of $500 or $1,000 per worker, depending on the size of the business. These workers would eventually be eligible for permanent legal residency as well. Said Rosemary Jenks of Number USA, “It’s actually bigger than the amnesties introduced by [Rep. Dick] Gephardt [Mo.] and other Democrats.” She noted that another Republican guest worker program, introduced earlier by Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), at least required illegal aliens “to return to their home country” before achieving legal status. But, she said, “not a single true guest-worker program has been introduced this year.” Flake said that the Bush Administration has not endorsed his bill. However, he added, “The White House is certainly behind the principle.” He said that such a bill is the only way to get the border under control. “The pull of employment is too strong,” he said. “Most people who come here don’t intend to stay. If you have a structured, legal process, you make it more likely they will go home.”