The Senate’s “Gang of Eight” is busy pushing for amnesty while promising that the border will be secured and U.S. immigration laws will be enforced…eventually. Just a few days ago, Senator Marco Rubio (R–FL) stated unequivocally that “first comes the legalization. Then come the measures to secure the border.” After the uproar caused by Rubio’s remarks, Senator John Cornyn (R–TX) proposed an amendment that tries to strengthen the border security and interior enforcement requirements in the bill.
However, these changes are nothing but a fig leaf to cover the fact that legalization, also known as amnesty, still comes first, and everything else comes later.
The Senate bill gives illegal immigrants registered provisional immigrant status almost immediately after the bill passes and allows for adjustment to legal permanent resident (LPR) status after 10 years. What the Cornyn amendment does is require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to have full “situational awareness” and “operational control” of the southern border for one full year prior to any changes to LPR status. It also requires a fully implemented employment verification system and an operational biometric entry and exit system before LPR status can be granted.
These changes, however, do nothing to alter the granting of amnesty before any new security or enforcement measures are put in place. Even if the Cornyn amendment enhanced U.S. security and robustly enforced U.S. laws, it would be too late. Shouldn’t border security and upholding the law be happening regardless of other immigration reforms? Regrettably, the President and some in Congress seem to be treating security and upholding the law as an afterthought or a bargaining chip, not as one of the core purposes of government.
Of course, the Cornyn amendment also doesn’t do enough to make the U.S. more secure. It uses weak, arbitrary benchmarks that can be manipulated by DHS and do not guarantee future security or enforcement. Additionally, it says nothing about new flows of illegal immigration. Under the Cornyn amendment, there could still be a sizable number of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. every year, but DHS would still be able to certify that the border is secure, thus allowing LPR status to be given out.
Perhaps most importantly, the Cornyn amendment still grants amnesty to millions of unlawful immigrants, shredding U.S. immigration laws, encouraging additional illegal immigration in the future, and weakening U.S. border security efforts.
The right approach would be one that enhances border security and strengthens the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws before approaching other immigration reforms in a piece-by-piece manner. This would include metrics that actually measure the number of unlawful immigrants still entering this country, such as the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The right approach would also partner with Mexico to stop illegal border crossings and use the vast manpower and resources of state and local law enforcement agencies to supplement the work of federal agents.
Border security and upholding U.S. laws should be Congress’s first priority. As long as immigration legislation follows an “amnesty first, enforcement and security later” mindset, the U.S. will be making the same mistakes it made in the past and will still have a broken immigration system.