Would the 2007 Immigration Bill, the "Grand Bargain", have solved our immigration problems?

The Immigration Bill considered by the Senate, the "Grand Bargain", originally S. 1639, raised a number of significant issues.  First and foremost was whether it was practical.  We have had a number of immigration reforms in the past that made perfect intellectual sense, i.e, they were logical and perfectly defensible, but the problem was they were not practical.  That is we did not have and as practical matter could not have, sufficient resources to enforce the law.  Thus, the law becomes a trap for the unwary or the unlucky.  And it undermines faith in both the immigration system and the process that created it.  The current bill has a number of similar problems.  

For example, the "Grand Bargain" had a temporary worker program.  According to the White House Fact sheet it provides:

Creating A Temporary Worker Program: To relieve pressure on the border and provide a lawful way to meet the needs of our economy, the proposal creates a temporary worker program to fill jobs Americans are not doing. To ensure this program is truly "temporary," workers will be limited to three two-year terms, with at least a year spent outside the United States between each term.  Temporary workers will be allowed to bring immediate family members only if they have the financial ability to support them and they are covered by health insurance.

The concept is a good one.  But why do we care as a nation whether someone is here for 2 years with a year spent outside of the United States for a maximum of three 2 year terms.  Has anyone given any thought to how we are going to enforce this and why do we want to?  If these workers are meeting the "needs of our economy" why does anyone care if they leave the country for a year between any of their 2 year terms?  It will take hundreds, if not thousands, of person hours to enforce this provision and to what end????

Also it is unclear if these temporary workers will be covered by all health and safety laws, all wage and hour laws, and all job security laws applicable to employees who are authorized to work in the United States.  If they are NOT, this just creates an incentive for unscrupulous employers to seek temporary workers over other employment authorized workers simply because they are cheaper to employ.  Without explicitly stating temporary workers are entitled to the same rights as other work authorized workers, we are creating an incentive to create an under class of workers.  We do Not have to do this. It is counter productive and it is unnecessary. 

Finally, since illegals do NOT have the protection of many of these laws, there is a positive incentive for unscrupulous employers to hire them. The fines are modest and the chances of getting caught are small.  It would make more sense to say if an employer is found to be intentionally employing illegal aliens and not paying them the minimum wage, overtime wages, or denying them other  labor law protections, the employer  must pay double what is due, with the underpaid portion going to the illegal alien as they are deported and the remaining portion going to the Federal Government as a fine.  It would also make sense to provide in such situations that the employer is guilty of a misdemeanor.  This would help remove the incentive to employ illegal workers. 

The White House Fact sheet states the "Grand Bargain"  creates:

No Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants: Illegal immigrants who come out of the shadows will be given probationary status.  Once the border security and enforcement benchmarks are met, they must pass a background check, remain employed, maintain a clean criminal record, pay a $1,000 fine, and receive a counterfeit-proof biometric card to apply for a work visa or "Z visa."  Some years later, these Z visa holders will be eligible to apply for a green card, but only after paying an additional $4,000 fine; completing accelerated English requirements; getting in line while the current backlog clears; returning to their home country to file their green card application; and demonstrating merit under the merit-based system.

By most reported estimates there are currently at least 12 million (12,000,000) illegal immigrants currently in the United States.  Has anyone considered the person power necessary to process Z visas in a timely manner when these 12,000,000 apply to them.  How many Federal employees will it take to do background checks in a timely manner on 12,000,000 people - one year, two years,.a decade???  The Federal Government is backlogged on doing background check of new Federal hires so how is it going to do background checks on 12,000,000 people?  In the meantime, will they be authorized to work?  Wouldn't it be more efficient, to say nothing of cheaper, to just give them temporary worker status?

The "Grand Bargain" puts much emphasis on putting illegal immigrants on the path to citizenship.  Why do we care?  Citizenship is NOT just another Federal benefit program.  Citizenship involves considerations of loyalty, wanting to participate in the electoral process, and caring about the United States.   If someone comes to the United States for a job fully intending to return home some day,  that is fine and fully understandable.  U.S. citizens go abroad to work all the time fully intending to return home some day.  Why should we expect aliens who come to the United States to act any differently?  Why do we want to urge them to become citizens??  Better we should give them a road to permanent residence, if that is what they want.  Citizenship should be reserved for those who want to become part of the American community.  If aliens want to pursue citizenship, we certainly should provide that option.  But treating citizenship as just another Federal benefit program is unseemly and insulting. 

The White House Fact sheet states the "Grand Bargain" is about:

Providing Tools For Employers To Verify The Eligibility Of The Workers They Hire: Employers will be required to verify the work eligibility of all employees using an employment eligibility verification system, while all workers will be required to present stronger and more verifiable identification documents.  Tough new anti-fraud measures will be implemented and stiff penalties imposed on employers who break the law.

People need to think about this long and hard.  For this appears to be a back door to a national identity card.   There appears to be no way that this can just be applied to non citizen workers.  For it to work, it has to be applicable to all workers, citizens and non citizens alike.  This amounts to giving a tremendous grant of power to the Federal government to follow the movement of every man, woman, and child who works.  We need to think long and hard about whether we want to give the Federal Government this kind of power.  A detailed analysis of the issues involved can be found in PAPERS, PAPERS . . . PLEASE:  A NATIONAL ID OR AN ELECTRONIC TATTOO?For more information on what is under consideration, see Work bill would create new ID Database.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has its "No Fly" list, DHS will have its "No Work" list.   There is little or no protection provided to correct errors in a timely manner.  This is an enormous grant of power to DHS to determine as a practical matter who may or may not work in the United States, citizen and non-citizen alke.   Whether it can do this efficiently is an open question.  But just a 1% error rate on a U.S. work force in excess of 145,000,000 comes to 1,450,000 people.  INS pilots of electronic verfication in the past had much higher error rates.  Any bill that does not have an effective, efficient, and speedy process for correcting errors is going to create a lot of misery for a lot of people. 

Click here for the text of the current version of the bill S. 1639 under consideration by the Senate.