Most discussion of the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (generally referred to as the Hagel-Martinez bill), centers on the fact that it would grant amnesty to 10 million illegal immigrants. But this is a mere drop in the bucket.
If enacted, Hagel-Martinez would represent the most dramatic change in immigration law in 80 years. If enacted in its original form, S. 2611 would have resulted in an estimated 103 million immigrants entering the
Even with the Bingaman amendment, the bill would allow an estimated 66 million people to immigrate legally to the
Today, legal immigrants are here on 1) temporary status, in which they can stay only for a designated period of time, 2) near-permanent convertible status, in which they are given the right to “adjust” or convert to legal permanent residence after a few years, or 3) legal permanent residence (LPR) status, in which they can remain in the United States for the rest of their lives and seek full citizenship after five years.
The bill proposed by Senators Chuck Hagel (R.-Neb.) and Mel Martinez (R.-Fla.) would give most immigrants now identified as “temporary” a “convertible” status with virtually unrestricted opportunity to become legal permanent residents and then citizens.
Moreover, under Hagel-Martinez and current immigration law, immigrants in convertible or LPR status have the right to bring spouses and minor children into the country. Spouses and dependent children will be granted permanent residence along with the primary immigrant and also may become citizens. In addition, after naturalizing, an immigrant can bring his parents into the
There are no limits on the number of spouses, dependent children and parents of naturalized citizens who can be brought into country under Hagel-Martinez. Siblings and adult children (along with their families) of naturalized citizens and the adult children (and their families) of legal permanent residents get preference in future admission but are subject to numeric caps.
Four key provisions of Hagel-Martinez would result in an explosive increase in legal immigration: First, illegal immigrants who have been in the
Hagel-Martinez also creates a new “temporary guest-worker” program, but there is nothing temporary about it. Nearly all “guest workers” would have the option to become permanent residents and then citizens. Foreign workers would have to have a job offer from a
Guest workers could remain in the
The amended bill does limit the number of guest workers who can enter each year to 200,000 per year. Within 20 years, millions of guest workers would have entered the
Today, the permanent entry of non-immediate relatives, such as brothers, sisters and adult children, is capped at 480,000 per year minus the number of immediate relatives—parents, spouses and minor children of
How is the figure of 66 million reached?
Today, 950,000 people per year receive permanent residence visas under current law. Over 20 years, that adds up to 19 million. The provision granting amnesty to illegal immigrants living in the
Today, when secondary family members, such as brothers and sisters, enter, they are counted against the 480,000 people per year allowed in because they are relatives of those already here under employment or guest-worker programs. Ceasing to count them against the 480,000, as Hagel-Martinez would do, adds 254,000 per year. That’s 5 million over 20 years.
Growing the employment-based green card program from 140,000 workers per year to 450,000—plus the estimated 540,000 relatives they are allowed to bring with them—would account for another 13.5 million people over 20 years.
The new guest-worker program would allow in 200,000 people each year. That would yield another 4 million people over 20 years. Spouses and dependent children of illegal immigrants already here who would receive amnesty under Hagel-Martinez and parents of naturalized citizens joining their families in the
A recent piece on humanevents.com by Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute stated that I performed a cheap trick by predicting that immigration under S. 2611 would reach 200 million over 20 years. As Mr. Reynolds should be well aware, I never predicted 200 million immigrants under S. 2611 and provided that number only to illustrate that my own estimates fell far below the law’s maximum legal flow. I did estimate that the inflow under S. 2611’s original uncapped “guest-worker” program could reach two million per year by 2027. I regard that estimate as perfectly reasonable given the original provisions in the legislation. Immigration law for the last 40 years has been a parable of unforeseen consequences—creating new, essentially unlimited, categories of immigration is an invitation for remarkable surprises that are unlikely to be undone once underway. For example, the immigration act of 1965 was not advertised as a decisive increase in immigration at the time of its passage, but it resulted in a near tripling of immigration within 30 years.
The Hagel-Martinez bill would yield similar outcomes. Today, about one million immigrants enter the
The Hagel-Martinez bill would transform the
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