On Tuesday, President Obama gave a speech in the East Room of the White House praising the efforts of the Senate in passing the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill. Surrounded by illegal immigrants and union leaders, among others, he told the audience, “If you genuinely believe we need to fix our immigration system, there’s no good reason to stand in the way of this bill.” Cheerleading tactics aside, however, the President’s speech was laced with false promises and empty rhetoric.
Here are how some of his claims stack up against the facts.
Obama claim: “First of all, if passed, this bill would be the biggest commitment to border security in our nation’s history.… So nobody is taking border enforcement lightly.”
Fact: This bill lavishes billions of additional spending on border security with no clear requirements on how the money is spent. At least $2 billion could legitimately be labeled a slush fund. Supporters of the bill trumpet requirements to “certify” border security, yet its standards are in some ways weaker than existing law. There are also no guarantees that these “requirements” will actually be met.
Obama claim: “[T]his bill would provide a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million individuals who are in this country illegally. So that pathway is arduous. You’ve got to pass background checks.”
Fact: The bill’s legalization of illegal immigrants that puts them on a path to citizenship—i.e., amnesty—happens nearly immediately after the bill passes, and the requirements for background checks are ripe for fraud and abuse. The draft law also states that anyone who was present in the U.S. before 2012 qualifies—but it requires no proof of having been here since before 2012, creating massive opportunity for fraud.
Obama claim: “You’ve got to learn English.”
Fact: The bill has no requirement that illegal immigrants learn English. It requires only that they show they have signed up for an English class.
Obama claim: “You’ve got to pay taxes.”
Fact: The immigration bill does not actually require illegal immigrants to pay back taxes before gaining legal status. Instead, the bill only requires that amnesty recipients pay “Federal income taxes assessed.” What this means is that those who have filed an income tax return must pay those income taxes. Illegal immigrants, however, do not file their taxes, and since the bill does not require amnesty recipients to first go through a tax assessment or audit, they will not have to pay back taxes. Furthermore, the bill does not require the payment of any back payroll, state, or local taxes.
Obama claim: “And then you’ve got to go to the back of the line behind everybody who’s done things the right way and have tried to come here legally.”
Fact: Currently, over 4 million people are outside the United States trying to immigrate legally. They would be disadvantaged, as the bill would give immediate legal status to currently illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
Obama claim: “[T]his bill would modernize the legal immigration system so that, alongside training American workers for the jobs of tomorrow, we’re also attracting the highly skilled entrepreneurs and engineers from around the world who will ultimately grow our economy.”
Fact: The bill would make the H-1B visa system for highly skilled workers almost unworkable. Section 4211 of the Gang of Eight bill guts the H-1B program by imposing heavy new restrictions. It would force employers using H-1B visas to pay higher wages to most H-1B employees than to U.S. workers and other restrictions that would create a bureaucratic nightmare for employers and put them in legal jeopardy.