We have supported increasing the number of immigrants allowed to stay in America and become citizens. But the Senate immigration reform agreement, as written, does not really accomplish that; it’s just as well that the U.S. Senate on Friday defeated the compromise bill. A bipartisan agreement hammered out Thursday lost the next day by a 60-38 vote, and senators departed for a two-week recess.
Hope that the agreement might still be fixed and soon pass the Senate “might unravel” as the agreement “is exposed to intense political scrutiny during the two-week congressional break,” The New York Times reported.
The break will give the senators a chance to return home and talk to constituents about the immigration situation. They also should do some hard thinking about the most questionable aspects of the agreement that lost on Friday.
Of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, the agreement would have allowed 7 million who have been here more than five years to stay and become citizens. Another 3 million who have lived here for two to five years “would have to travel to a United States border crossing and apply for a temporary work visa,” the Times explained. They then would be eligible to become citizens. And the roughly 1 million who have come here the past two years would have to leave, then apply for temporary-worker permits, allocated at 325,000 a year.
What effectively is an amnesty for 10 million illegal immigrants is supposed to be accompanied by stiffer border enforcement in the future. But illegal immigration opponents worry that any kind of enhanced enforcement will never occur, as after the 1986 amnesty.
The Senate agreement’s temporary-worker program — or “guest-worker” program — also is flawed. “Many of those who come to the United States for short stints will want to stay on when their visas expire, perpetuating the underground economy that the program is supposed to eliminate,” writes Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.