Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 25, 2006

A compromise on the border bill?

Filed under: Border Security,Congress and HLS — by Christian Beckner on July 25, 2006

As the House-Senate conference to negotiate the differences between their respective border security bills continues to languish, new proposals are emerging to try to break the impasse and/or shift the political dynamic.

For example, yesterday Sen. Kyl and Sen. Cornyn proposed the need for $3.5 billion in additional border security funding. And today, Sen. Hutchison and Rep. Mike Pence introduced a compromise plan, as summarized by Reuters:

The plan calls for implementing border-security measures before a guest-worker program backed by President Bush is put into place. Once the borders are determined to be secure, a temporary-worker program and an employment-verification program would go into effect.

The U.S. government would license private employment services to match workers with employers. They would operate out of Canada, Mexico and Central American countries that are part of trade pacts with the United States.

Illegal immigrants from those countries seeking to legalize their status would have to travel home to get a two-year visa, which could be renewed for a total of 12 years. After that time, those seeking to continue in the United States could apply for a visa that would allow them to say for another five years before they could apply for permanent status.

I’ve read through the full proposal, and my initial reaction is that it’s an idea that sounds OK in theory…but the more you think about, the more unworkable it would be in practice, requiring the creation of a massive new bureaucracy to administer. For example: What happens to illegal immigrants who don’t leave the country to enroll? What happens to families who are currently in the U.S. where some (but not all) members have legal status? How would the hiring process described in the proposal address the need for seasonal or short-term workers in certain sectors? What happens when someone loses their job through no fault of their own? Are they allowed to find work in the U.S. without returning to their home country? The proposal doesn’t account for these likely outcomes.

Perhaps there is a compromise proposal that wouldn’t create a giant new bureaucracy and doesn’t leave so many unanswered questions. The right way to find out is for the House leadership to appoint conferees and sit down with the Senate to work out a compromise that builds on the hundreds-of-thousands of hours of work that have already gone into the existing legislation.

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