Real Immigration Enforcement & How S.744 Doesn’t Do the Job

The full report is available in PDF format.

Executive Summary

Being able to effectively prevent the entry and/or stay of those who are not legally authorized to be in our country is the essence of immigration law enforcement. The presence of an estimated 12 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S. attests to the flaws in existing law enforcement policies and the crucial need for reform. But, as happened after the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, if reform efforts do not close loopholes in the law, respect for the law will be even further eroded.

S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, passed by the Senate in June 2013, and the Obama administration’s reform proposals should be critically studied to see whether they are designed to be effective or if they simply repeat the failed IRCA experience. Under S.744, most of the current illegal aliens would gain an early amnesty, while the American people would get promises of future enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. As with the 1986 legislation, S.744 fails to adopt—as a precondition to amnesty—a standard for measuring whether enforcement capabilities are in place to prevent a new influx of illegal aliens.

Specifically, S.744 treats plans for more effective controls against illegal immigration as if they were actual achievements—just like in 1986. The legislation lacks specific metrics for measuring the effectiveness of border enforcement efforts. Even more significantly, it would weaken existing legislative standards for preventing visa overstays. Additionally, rather than expanding the current tested and proven system for protecting American workers against competition from illegal foreign workers, it would offer a nebulous new system. And it would further erode the ability of state and local governments to discourage future illegal immigration and to defend their communities against the presence of illegal aliens.

The ultimate test of effective law enforcement is whether it restores respect for immigration laws and allows the American public to feel confident to once again welcome foreigners into our country. In that regard, the S.744 reform effort fails.