FAIR's Response to Sen. Charles Schumer’s Seven Point Plan for So-Called "Comprehensive Immigration Reform"
(Washington, DC — June 25, 2009) In advance of the White House summit on immigration, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees, issued a seven point plan for reforming America’s immigration policies. Unfortunately, Sen. Schumer’s plan is short on details and even shorter on protections of the vital interests of the American people. It also conveniently ignores the history of immigration politics and policies since 1986.
In the hope that Congress and the Obama administration will make a serious effort at addressing America’s dysfunctional immigration policies and reforming them in a way that serves the public interest, FAIR has issued the following response to Sen. Schumer’s seven point plan. (Sen. Schumer’s points are bolded below, and FAIR’s responses follow.)
Sen. Schumer — Illegal immigration is wrong, and a primary goal of comprehensive immigration reform must be to dramatically curtail future illegal immigration.
Sen. Schumer is half right: illegal immigration is wrong, but it is also harmful to the interests of the vast majority of hard-working law-abiding citizens and immigrants. Millions of innocent people have been and continue to be harmed by illegal immigration. Innocent people lose jobs, wages, educational opportunities, access to needed services and benefits, and some are victimized by criminals who have come to the country illegally. All Americans are forced to subsidize illegal immigration through their tax dollars.
Curtailing future illegal immigration is not the primary goal of any meaningful immigration reform; it is a primary goal. An equally important goal of anything styled “comprehensive immigration reform” is to rectify the wrong that has been committed against the American people by employing all reasonable and prudent strategies to reduce the existing population of illegal aliens. There is no reason why curtailing future and reducing current illegal immigration cannot be pursued simultaneously. In fact, measures put in place near the end of the Bush administration were doing just that. These have since been rolled back or blocked by the Obama administration.
Sen. Schumer — Operational control of our borders—through significant additional increases in infrastructure, technology, and border personnel—must be achieved within a year of enactment of legislation.
It has been nearly a decade since 9/11, and the threat of terror attack, international organized crime and serious international conflict remain as real as ever. If, as Sen. Schumer concedes, we do not have operational control of our borders, why should correction of this critical homeland security vulnerability have to wait? In fact, why have Congress and successive administration permitted current conditions to continue? Regaining operational control of our borders must not be contingent on anything. Congress and the president have a moral and constitutional obligation to use any and all resources to gain control of our borders and protect the security of the nation.
Sen. Schumer — A biometric-based employer verification system—with tough enforcement and auditing—is necessary to significantly diminish the job magnet that attracts illegal aliens to the United States and to provide certainty and simplicity for employers.
This is a staggering assertion given the nature of those who support Senator Schumer’s plans. Where has Senator Schumer been for the past 23 years? This is precisely the same scenario we were presented with in the 1980’s. Instituting such a system was envisioned in 1986, when then Congressman Schumer played a key role in passing the last fraud-ridden illegal alien amnesty. FAIR has worked for decades to bring such a system into being; yet the very same interests pushing this comprehensive “amnesty” proposal are the ones who’ve worked most diligently to block progress in this area.
If an effective employment verification system “is necessary to significantly diminish the job magnet that attracts illegal aliens to the United States” and protect American jobs at this very difficult time, why has the United States Senate repeatedly failed to reauthorize E-Verify for more than a few months at a time? Why did the Senate strip a provision from the economic stimulus bill that would have required companies that benefit from taxpayer money to use the E-Verify system? Why hasn’t Sen. Schumer pushed forcefully for expansion of E-Verify and phasing in mandatory use by all employers?
We know from sad experience that organizations like the National Council of La Raza, the National Immigration Forum and the Chamber of Commerce will stop at nothing to ensure a continued stream of illegal immigration into the U.S. They will oppose his plans for implementing an effective work eligibility verification system while demanding the amnesty provisions. How will Senator Schumer’s involvement change that outcome?
Sen. Schumer — All illegal aliens present in the United States on the date of enactment of our bill must quickly register their presence with the United States Government—and submit to a rigorous process of converting to legal status and earning a path to citizenship—or face imminent deportation.
If, as Senator Schumer states in his first point, illegal immigration is wrong, why should the people who violated the law be given the opportunity “of converting to legal status and earning a path to citizenship”? More importantly, what impact would another mass amnesty have on the American people, whose interests are supposed to be protected by our immigration laws?
- What impact would a massive amnesty have on already soaring unemployment?
- How would a repeat of the massive fraud that took place in 1986 be prevented?
- How would adequate background checks be carried out on the estimated 12 to 15 million illegal aliens who would be eligible?
- How many additional relatives, now living outside the U.S., would be eligible for amnesty?
- How would future illegal immigration be averted when the administration refuses to implement existing systems to prevent employment of illegal aliens?
- How would state and local governments some, including Sen. Schumer’s home state of New York, already teetering on bankruptcy pay for services required by newly legalize aliens and their families?
- How are the interests of the U.S. served by adding another 150 million people to our population in the next few decades?
Sen. Schumer — Family reunification is a cornerstone value of our immigration system. By dramatically reducing illegal immigration, we can create more room for both family immigration and employment-based immigration.
Keeping nuclear families together spouses and unmarried minor children should be a cornerstone value of our immigration system. But as various immigration study commissions have concluded, reunification of extended families is an unachievable objective, because each extended family that is reunified breaks up another extended family. A cornerstone to true comprehensive immigration reform must limit family reunification to the nuclear family. In doing so, we could ensure that reunification of immediate families is expedited and the system is not clogged with endless chain migration. Moreover, the expectation of extended family reunification is a catalyst for illegal immigration. Extended relatives who are often faced with long waiting periods to immigrate under over-subscribed visa categories often make the decision to come to the United States illegally, and wait their turn here. In essence, Senator Schumer is saying overall immigration must be unlimited so we can avoid creating any backlogs or denying anyone entry who wishes to come. Surely the nation can learn from past mistakes: mindless increases in family preference immigration is not a way to solve the nation’s immigration crisis.
There is no evidence especially given current economic circumstances that the United States needs more employment-based immigration. In general, employment-based immigration is poorly conceived and poorly monitored. A critical element of true comprehensive immigration must be to establish a rational and objective system for selecting workers who are actually needed and preventing immigration from undermining the interests of American workers. All this must take place under an annual enforceable cap that does not allow immigration to fuel massive, runaway U.S. population growth.
Sen. Schumer — We must encourage the world’s best and brightest individuals to come to the United States and create the new technologies and businesses that will employ countless American workers, but must discourage businesses from using our immigration laws as a means to obtain temporary and less-expensive foreign labor to replace capable American workers.
Again, Senator Schumer concedes that countless American workers are being displaced by “less-expensive foreign labor.” The obvious question: why has Congress permitted this sort of abuse to continue for so long? Why should the interests of struggling American workers have to wait to be addressed until illegal aliens are granted amnesty? Why is a detrimental and costly mass amnesty a condition precedent to doing anything that serves the general public interest?
Sen. Schumer — We must create a system that converts the current flow of unskilled illegal immigrants into the United States into a more manageable and controlled flow of legal immigrants who can be absorbed by our economy.
This statement contradicts what has gone before. President Obama has forcefully made the point that in the 21st century, the United States cannot afford the luxury of an uneducated and unskilled labor force. If Senator Schumer agrees, why would we want to enact an amnesty that would make countless millions of uneducated and unskilled workers a legal and permanent component of our labor force? Why continue to promote a system of family chain migration that reinforces the low skill levels of the legal immigrant flow? If we have no need for unskilled immigrants, why do we maintain legal immigration policies and guest worker programs that bring hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers to our country every year?
At this point, the entire immigration debate comes down to trust versus power. The Democrats see a heavy skew in Latino voting, and the interests most closely aligned with the Obama administration have invested heavily in corroding this debate with polarizing name-calling and vicious mud-slinging. It is pursued solely in the interest of party power politics. The trust has evaporated. Nothing the Obama administration has done in the field of immigration policy since January 2009 has restored that trust in fact just the opposite has occurred.
The current proposals are reminiscent of the unpopular 2007 amnesty bill that caused such a firestorm of outrage. Today they are gussied up with clever spin and ornamentation in an effort to disguise their true effect. Amnesty is unpopular, unfair and immoral. For years, the public has patiently waited for the Federal Government to do the right thing, to carry out its promises and make immigration serve the interests of the nation once again. This has not happened because Congress has allowed special interests to undermine the promised and effective reforms we need.
The pain out there is real. The time for political games and special interest pandering must end. It’s time for real, true immigration reform, not another sham of empty promises and betrayed public trust!