A TakePart Guide to the Schumer-Graham Immigration Overhaul
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Subject: A TakePart Guide to the Schumer-Graham Immigration Overhaul
A TakePart Guide to the Schumer-Graham Immigration Overhaul
If such an enormous political undertaking is to occur this year, the genesis of debate will be the bipartisan “draft framework” presented to President Obama in March by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC).
In a Washington Post op-ed, Schumer and Graham broke down their blueprint, which Obama endorsed, into four basic pillars.
As best we can—their proposal is long on end goals and short on details—we’ll dissect each pillar.
Pillar #1—Required Biometric Social Security Cards for Every American
The most obvious question first: What exactly does biometric mean? Schumer and Graham don’t say. The Wall Street Journal reports that the biometric requirement would be met by either “fingerprints or a scan of the veins in the top of the hand.”
The logic behind Pillar #1 is easy enough to understand: a card for all Americans is the only real way to ensure illegal workers can’t obtain jobs. Here’s another thing that’s easy to understand about Pillar #1: it’s almost guaranteed to draw ire across the political spectrum.
A few hang-ups:
- Why advocate a top-down approach to a bottom-up problem? In other words, why burden the many (there are roughly 150 million American workers) to catch the few (there are roughly 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.)?
- A document to work? Really? Not to drive a car or to board an airplane, but to deliver mail, perform bypass surgery, or teach Othello to high schoolers. May seem un-American to some.
- Who fronts the bill for the card-reading machines? The small-business owner fresh off a round of layoffs?
- Machine error. What happens when the cards or the card-reading gizmos malfunction, as they surely will? Could otherwise work-worthy folks be denied employment because their biometric card can’t be read properly?
- The notion of a tamper- or fraud-proof ID card, as pitched by Schumer and Graham, is laughable. Technology made by man begets technology forged, hacked or otherwise compromised by man.
- The privacy issue. According to Schumer and Graham, “no government database would house everyone's information. The cards would not contain any private information, medical information or tracking devices.” Even if you won't give the Senators the benefit of the doubt here, well, Big Brother is already watching you. Right now, if you’re not reading this sentence from a computer, which has a unique IP address, you’re thumbing through it on your cell phone, which can satellite-triangulate your precise whereabouts.
Pillar #2—Border Security and Interior Enforcement
Names hold meaning. And, at times, they can weigh a ton.
To see the importance that the right puts on border security, look at the name of Arizona's recent bill (“Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act”) and the name of the failed 2007 attempt by President Bush to overhaul immigration (“Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act”).
Schumer and Graham know how much this pillar means to border-state Senators, Representatives, and citizens and have proposed—again, in vague language—“increasing the Border Patrol’s staffing and funding for infrastructure and technology.”
Any increase in funds, technology and manpower should continue the great strides made in tightening the border. Yeah, you read right. Despite what you might hear on cable television or talk radio, current border security is working. Look at the results of a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center. In 2005, 650,000 Mexicans illegally entered the U.S. In 2009, the number was down to 175,000. As for “interior enforcement,” well, in 2008 roughly 359,000 illegal immigrants were deported from the United States—the sixth consecutive record high.
Pillar #3—Temporary Workers
Schumer and Graham’s blueprint would create a “rational” system for allowing lower-skilled workers to enter the country. Under the current system, lower-skilled immigrants are not allowed to enter, earn some decent pay, and then return home.
Another sound provision of Pillar #3—and one that would go a long way in quelling the fears of union members—is that employers will need to show they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position before they are allowed to hire temporary immigrant workers.
Pillar #4—A Path to Legalization for the Illegal Immigrants Already Here
This pillar is really about The Practical vs. The Punitive.
The Practical—Schumer, Graham, most Democrats—want a “tough but fair” path to citizenship for the illegal immigrants already in the country.
After screaming the seven-letter word—“amnesty!”—at the top of their red lungs, The Punitive (most Republicans) want nothing but a path back to Mexico for said immigrants. Some on the right have taken to calling the senior Senator from South Carolina “Lindsay Graham-nesty.”
The Punitive argue that there is something deeply un-American about rewarding criminals for their crime. The Practical don’t disagree, but because they’re, well, practical, they counter-punch with dollars and cents: Does it make financial sense to track down and deport each and every of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country?
The Practical will force the illegal immigrants to admit, probably through a sworn affidavit, that they broke the law. They will be required to perform community service, pay back taxes, pay a fine, and become proficient in English.
Oh, and one more thing—perhaps the ultimate citizen sincerity test: they will have to go to the very back of the line and start anew, a process that can take, by some estimates, up to 20 years to complete.
The Obama Factor
If President Obama wants to get immigration done this year, he needs to step out on front-street and lead the charge. But if his recent comments are any indication, it's not a walk he—and especially lawmakers in an election year—are eager to take. After all, the scabs from the health care battle are still fresh. Add to that the next Beltway battle royale—the increasingly watered down energy bill—and it is unlikely immigration moves to the top of the to-do list in 2010.