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Immigration Bill’s Unnecessary Time Constraints

Considering that it is the result of secret, closed door negotiations, it’s not surprising that Sen. Ted Kennedy’s new amnesty proposal was finished over a weekend and taken up by the Senate on Monday, giving the rest of the Senators and the rest of the world only one work day to read the fine print.  This unrealistic timeframe is fairly representative of the whole plan, especially considering that this proposal requires only one business day each for a background check on the millions of current illegal immigrants before they must be given preliminary legal status. 

This proposal represents the most significant and dangerous change to our immigration policy in decades, and even a quick read of its 326 pages reveals that it absolutely fails to secure our borders as promised.  The last time Congress granted amnesty in 1986, there were just over a million illegal aliens asking for special treatment, and over three million of these lawbreakers were eventually granted legal residence.  The current amnesty proposal could once again triple the numbers of those estimated 12-20 million illegal aliens now insisting on it, and it shows how badly this approach to border security failed last time.  The safety of our nation demands we not repeat this mistake.

The Kennedy proposal released this weekend provides amnesty for almost all of the current illegal immigrants here, further encouraging more to do so.  Supporters of this bill state the immigrants can’t be granted legal status until border security triggers are met, but there is a loophole in this requirement large enough to swallow the rule.   Even before the triggers are met, an amnesty applicant must be given probationary legal status by end of the next business day if they pass that 24 hour background check.  Aside from giving illegals a priority in service of which most American citizens can only dream, it is completely unreasonable to expect our already burdened immigration officers to be able to thoroughly and securely check each of the additional millions of individuals who will be applying. 

T.J. Bonner, President of the National Border Patrol Council, says this amnesty waves a white flag of surrender on border security and illegal immigration and will invite future terrorist attacks- who are we to argue with the head of the brave men and women on the front lines of this battle?

Legalizing current aliens also increases their access to a government entitlement system of social services that is already breaking under the strain of providing for American citizens without coming up empty for our children.  When our Social Security Trust Fund is expected to give out more than it takes in by 2017 and be exhausted by 2041, it is irresponsible to add millions more to the rolls when a Heritage Foundation study has shown that typical illegal alien households consume almost $20,000 more in benefits per year than they pay in taxes.  Compounding the problem is the fact that this plan, which Heritage has said could cost more then $2.5 trillion upon retirement of the legalized immigrants, does not require payment of an alien’s back taxes.  Though supporters of this plan say they want to coax immigrants out of “living in the shadows,” this plan is apparently not good enough to bring their money out with them, and this decision could cost hardworking American taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

This new round of amnesty would burden America with terrible costs, both in terms of homeland security and economic security, and it represents massive unfairness to both American citizens who abide by our laws and to those patiently waiting in line outside our country to follow the legal process to come in.  The Kennedy proposal offers no meaningful solutions to actually increasing enforcement of our immigration laws, only amnesty to create huge exceptions to them.  The current debate must focus on the issue of border security first, and we must know who is entering and leaving our country before we can even address the problem of what to do with those who came here illegally.  As the nearly averted crisis at Fort Dix showed us, we must shore up the holes in our border security, and we can start with building the entire 700 plus miles of border fence required by the Secure Fence Act of 2006, not retreating to the 370 miles of fence mentioned in the Kennedy proposal.  Since it will be a while yet till Congress can realistically assure the American people that our borders are safe, it will give Sen. Kennedy and the rest of the pro-amnesty chorus plenty of time to explain why giving illegal aliens free license to flout our immigration laws and tax laws is not amnesty.

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Congressman Feeney represents the 24th District of Florida. He is a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

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