Opponents Believe They Can Stop Immigration Plan

Immigration reform advocates predict that President Bush’s immigration plan will not succeed in Congress this year. “It’s not going anywhere,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo (R.-Colo.), chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus. Although some Republican leaders have made vague statements of support for the plan, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, together with pro-immigration groups, have all attacked the plan, the latter because it does not ensure a path to citizenship for illegal aliens and new foreign workers. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R.-Wis.) and House Immigration Subcommittee Chairman John Hostettler (R.-Ind.) are immigration hawks who have remained noticeably silent on Bush’s plan. Powerful House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R.-Tex.) has expressed skepticism. “We expect that the plan would have to go through Sensenbrenner’s committee,” said a House Republican aide. “He has consistently opposed amnesties in the past.” Bush’s plan would legalize illegal aliens living in this country who have jobs now and allow employers to import foreign workers on renewable three-year visas if they cannot find Americans to take the jobs they offered. “The unreality of the whole thing leads me to conclude that this is nothing but a political gesture,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). “It’s an amnesty no matter what the White House tries to say about it. The Republican Party has been moving toward a Saudi Arabian-style immigration policy in which people come to work here for many, many years but never become citizens.” Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for the immigration reform group Numbers USA, said that millions of guest workers brought to this country under the plan would have to be given citizenship eventually. “These workers will largely be poor, low-skilled,” she said. “They will vote for the party with the most handouts. This plan will kill the Republican Party.” She said the plan is unlikely to pass this year. “Unemployment is still high,” she said. Next year, she said, “could be different.” The idea of requiring employers to make a serious attempt to hire Americans first would be “a polite fiction,” said Krikorian. For example, he said, “someone will advertise for experienced stonemasons at $6.75 an hour, and no American with those skills will take that. So the employer will say he has to import a bunch of people from Bangladesh.” “We tried a guest worker program before, the bracero program in the ’40s,” he said. “It didn’t work well. . . . Like Bush’s plan, it provided a financial incentive for them to return to Mexico by garnishing some of their wages, but they never got that money. Either they stayed here, forgot to ask for it, or the Mexican banks stole it. There are still lawsuits going on about it now, 50 years later.”