23 May 2007

More Thoughts on Immigration Reform

The more I read about the latest immigration reform bill, the less I like it. For some good reading on this bill, Thomas Sowell has two (link and link), and Hugh Hewitt has a series of comments (last one here, with links) on what he can get of the bill, which is still in draft form.

The first thing that strikes me about the bill is that, according to many reports, it has been debated and created in secret. Additionally, there was, and maybe still is, an effort to push the bill through the Senate without much debate. This is in addition that there is to my knowledge still only “draft” versions of the bill out there for review. These things all point to a bill which must have some serious flaws in it or which contains aspects that are very controversial and therefore must be kept secret.

The Z visa provision is one of the most troubling provisions of the bill. According to what I’ve read, one of the very first things that will happen if this bill becomes law is that millions of illegal immigrants will be eligible for the Z visa, which essentially allows them to stay in the country indefinitely. Also, it appears that only the head of a household will be required to have a background check done when applying for the Z visa. Lastly, Z visas are renewable ad infinitum, so the illegal immigrant becomes a documented foreign national on US soil – doing jobs that Americans won’t do, because they can’t find jobs in their home country, etc.

The background check, or lack thereof, for all family members is problematic. While a mother and father may be quite law abiding – other than being in the country illegally, which this bill essentially asks everyone to forget – son and daughter may not be. I have heard nothing of comprehensively checking for a criminal history of all family members covered under the Z visa. This is odd, as the immigration reform bill is dubbed as “comprehensive”. As it stands, I believe that this bill will provide legal status to many criminals already in the country, and again, when I say criminal here, I mean beyond being in the country illegally.

Finally, there’s the question of the cost to taxpayers of illegal immigrants no matter what their status. The Heritage Foundation released a cost analysis recently (executive summary here) titled "The Fiscal Cost of Low-Skill Immigrants to the U.S. Taxpayer." Without getting into the details, this bill will impose a huge cost in the form of benefits on taxpayers. This is something which is really just common sense if given some thought. If a growing population is to maintain a level of services (schools, hospitals, police and fire forces, etc.), then tax payers must spend more money on those services. However, if a growing proportion of the citizenry is poor and not well-educated, then the tax-base of the community will also be lower. Two choices exist then: raise the tax burden of those who can pay more taxes or lower the level of services. How many new citizens will push for the latter? This is a long-term problem, though, as Z visa holders become embedded in the country (even more so than illegals are now) and either gain citizenship or are granted more rights as permanent residents.

In the end, for reasons too many to number here, I do not support the latest “comprehensive” immigration reform. Additionally, I don’t think we should have a “comprehensive” plan. How about an incremental plan in which the laws as they exist are enforced? I wrote many Senators this past week on just that point. If you feel the same way, perhaps you should, too.

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