Attempts to fix immigration bill are self defeating

To get rid of illegal immigration you have to make it more attractive to come here legally than to sneak in over the border. Photo: Immigration (AP/Carolyn Kasler)

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2013 — The primary goal of the immigration bill which is still being revised in the Senate is to end the flow of illegal immigrants into this country. The obvious and most practical and cost effective way to do this is to make it possible for them to enter the country legally as documented immigrants or guest workers, with enough border security to make it easier to come here legally than illegally.

Making this work relies on a fine balance of incentives and disincentives which add up to making the cost and inconvenience of coming here illegally higher than the cost to come here legally. Additional amendments proposed in the Senate this week to attract a few more votes for passage may help the bill pass while at the same time rendering it entirely ineffective.

SEE RELATED: Obama Democrats don’t want border security

One amendment focuses on increasing border security with more manpower and unmanned drones at a cost of $30 billion. Forget unsubstantiated claims about welfare and health costs; this is where the real cost of immigration enforcement hits taxpayers. We pay far more for in effectively trying to keep immigrants out than we do for those who get in illegally. In addition, higher security and surveillance harms border communities that are already pretty fed up with the hassles of living under the ICE security umbrella. More checkpoints where they are treated like suspects plus drones in their skies will not be well received.

The real problem is another amendment which is designed to make sure that immigrants pay for the privilege of coming here legally. This amendment now includes thousands of dollars in fines and fees plus payment of back taxes, social security and medicaid for anyone who wants to attain legal status.

With a typical minimum combined cost of over $5000 to go from illegal to legal status, the amendment pushes the cost high enough that most immigrants will find it impossible to pay, leaving them better off staying here illegally and resisting any offer of amnesty. It defeats the entire purpose of the legislation if the penalties make it more attractive to immigrate illegally than legally. We just end up with more cost and more regulation while still having an illegal immigration problem.

We should want illegals to take advantage if the opportunity to become legal. To do that we must make the change to legal sratus attractive to them. if we make it so difficult and costly that they will choose to remain illegal then what is the point of this entire exercise? While Senators offer more amendments and seem to mostly be arguing over who can offer the most draconian plan for fortifying the border, the real problems in the immigration bill continue to be ignored or are being made worse.

SEE RELATED: America does not need immigration reform

The bill still contains far fewer visas for temporary workers or for immigrants than is needed to meet demand, with quotas set far below the job requirements of the US labor market. The total number of visas for seasonal agricultural workers is less than 2/3 of the demand just in the Rio Grande valley in Texas and a tiny fraction of the total demand for these workers nationwide. The only way to fill those jobs will continue to be through illegal immigration under this act.

Too few visas combined with an extortionately high entry cost for immigrants guarantees the failure of the proposed immigration reforms. Senators are playing on the deck while the Titanic sinks under them.

As currently written and revised, the bill is 1000 plus pages of wasted paper. It’s time to scrap it and start over again. Maybe the House can do this job properly.

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Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle has been writing political analysis since the 1980s for newspapers, magazines and now online journals. He is currently Execitive Director of the Center for Foreign Policy Priorities, is on the board of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, and served four years as National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus.

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