Sunday, June 03, 2007

Immigration Reform Act of 2007

Since Mark's May 2006 post on the President's speech, the illegal immigration debate has been revived in the form of the "Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007".

Opinions range from it being an important first step, to it being a dangerous amnesty that could give Democrats a permanent majority (though some are already voting), to it being too much of a burden on both illegal immigrants and employers.

The bill itself is 300+ pages. The American Immigration Lawyers Association has a helpful section-by-section summary. Most of the analysis I've found has been from conservatives opposed to the bill, such as Hugh Hewitt's analysis (summary) and politics FAQ.

The White House's "Fact Sheet" presents a positive view of the bill, though it omits some of the details which provoke contention. It does, however, hint at some peculiar aspects, such as the requirement for would-be-citizens to "touchback" (i.e. return to their home country to file their green card application), and a merit system which prefers higher skills and education in spite of the ostensive need for unskilled workers.

Solid statistics on this issue would be helpful, but they are hard to come by, in part due to policies in "sanctuary cities" which prohibit asking for or reporting a person's immigration status (and, in some cases, even cooperating with federal immigration officials). Apparently, this includes criminals. Such willful ignorance of illegality encapsulates the limbo, contradiction, and inefficacy of present legislation and enforcement.

Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman offered an amendment to this bill which would give law enforcement officers the ability to make such inquiry and report, but it was defeated. And so, we are left with approximations for the foreseeable future.

One major question about the bill is whether it will be tantamount to amnesty. i.e. it might not technically be "amnesty", but the contention is that the effect will be similar. At issue is the renewable for-fee "Z visa" which is available only to illegal immigrant workers and has probationary benefits after 24 hours even before the applications are formally approved, as well as concerns over continuing the lack of enforcement, and the sense of how illegal immigrants would fair relative to legal immigrants (i.e. rewarding lawbreakers), etc.

Is this bill a step in the right direction? Which aspects of the bill do you agree or disagree with? Which aspects will be effective? Will the bill and related laws be enforced?


Update (June 7): Michelle Malkin has been liveblogging Senate debate today, including amendments and a few failed attempts at cloture, regarding: S.1348 - A bill to provide for comprehensive immigration reform and for other purposes.

The Washington Post has a nice table summarizing the amendment votes on this bill.

Also, Senator Sessions's List of 20 Loopholes in the Senate Immigration Bill.

Update (June 28): Another vote for cloture in the Senate failed. The clarion call of the bill's opposition is that a vote for cloture is a vote for the bill, since cloture requires 60 votes to proceed, while the final vote only requires a simple majority which already exists.

Thus, some crafty Senators could vote for cloture and against the bill, to the effect of voting for the bill while still being able to tell your constituents you voted against it. The wonders of politics.

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