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Cornyn: Did You Know This About the ‘Compromise’ Bill?

Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.), a member of the Judiciary Committee and author of an immigration reform bill, has decided to go on the offensive this week and reveal what Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (R.-Nev.) wanted to keep out of the “compromise” bill that went down to defeat due to Democratic obstructionism.

The first installment—Cornyn’s crew promises several more—deals with fraud in the U.S. immigration system.

THE PROBLEM:

The immigration bill now pending before the Senate includes language that prohibits information sharing and restricts how the Department of Homeland Security may use information submitted in applications (Sections 601 and 613; those provisions were also in the Specter/Leahy Committee amendment). The text is exactly the same as what was in the 1986 amnesty bill. Twenty years ago, those provisions led to massive fraud and hundreds of thousands of ineligible aliens obtaining green cards.

THE SOLUTION (blocked by Sen. Reid):

The Cornyn amendment would simply strike the text that was in the 1986 amnesty bill, removing the potential for widespread fraud in our immigration system.

BACKGROUND AND HISTORY OF THE PROBLEM:

  • The “compromise” bill says that information furnished by an applicant can only be used to make a determination on that specific application. The information may also be used in connection with a criminal investigation or prosecution. But if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identifies a pattern of fraud, it would be prohibited from using the information submitted in one fraudulent application to deny another application that was submitted as part of the same fraud scheme.
  • The same restrictions were included in the 1986 amnesty program and caused widespread fraud and abuse. There is no reason to treat legalization applications any differently than other immigration applications submitted to DHS.
  • A New York Times article described the 1986 agricultural worker amnesty as “one of the most extensive immigration frauds ever perpetuated against the United States government.” (Robert Suro, Nov. 12, 1989 A1). Although the estimated size of the illegal alien population engaged in agricultural work in the 1980s was only 300,000 to 400,000 out of a total agricultural workforce of 2.5 million, 1.3 million aliens were amnestied under the program.
  • The “confidentiality” provisions of the 1986 act were credited with causing the widespread fraud and abuse. In 1999, then INS General Counsel Paul Virtue testified before the House that “[t]he confidentiality restrictions of law [in the 1986 amnesty] also prevented INS from pursuing cases of possible fraud detected during the application process.”
  • In connection with the 1986 legalization program, there were 920 arrests, 822 indictments, and 513 convictions for fraud and related criminal activity. (Paul Virtue testimony)

THE ALTERNATIVE:

There is another way, a better way. The Cornyn/Kyl bill (The Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act of 2005, S.1438) will dramatically strengthen enforcement, bolster border security, and comprehensively reform our immigration laws. The key components of the bill include enhanced border security and interior enforcement, employer accountability, and reform that addresses temporary workers and the current illegal population—without amnesty and loopholes for fraud and abuse.

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Written By

Mr. Bluey, a contributing editor to Human Events, is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation. He maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com.

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