News accounts of the bargaining among the Gang of 8 Senators working on draft legislation for a new amnesty have highlighted the issue of border security. The GOP Senators – notably Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) – are said to be insisting on border security before illegal aliens – who would already have legal status by the amnesty – become eligible to receive ‘green cards’ (legal permanent residence) and move further along the “path to citizenship.” The accounts note a rift between the GOP members who want an objective finding that the borders are secure – perhaps by a commission of border officials – and the Democrats who characterize the border as already sufficiently secure and want the finding of that fact to come from the administration – namely Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano.
Border security is important not only because its absence allows the entry of illegal aliens, but also because it allows smuggling of narcotics and other illicit material, and because it allows the entry of individuals who pose a threat to our national security.
But secure borders is only one of three related issues. Not all illegal aliens enter illegally across the border. A significant share of the illegal alien population – estimated at one-third to half – enter the country with permission and stay illegally. They enter with visas or in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Having a system to identify illegal overstayers is not just about persons illegally taking jobs, it is also about national security. The laws requiring a comprehensive electronic entry-exit control system arose in response to the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and again with the September 11, 2001 attacks. The terrorists had entered with visas and some of them had stayed illegally in the United States as they planned and executed their attacks.
Efforts to establish greater border security, such as completing the border fencing mandated by Congress will do nothing to correct the problem of the overstayers.
The outline of reform provisions released by the Gang of 8 deal with the overstay issue by stating that the long-delayed entry-exit control system (promised since 1996) needs to be completed and that a comprehensive employment verification system to deny jobs to illegal aliens be instituted.
Those reform concepts are on target, but – like with border security – who will decide when a comprehensive entry – exit system is in place? If it is left to Secretary Napolitano, she has said that a comprehensive system is not needed and it would be too costly. Similarly, who will decide when a comprehensive employment verification system is in place and effectively preventing illegal aliens from getting jobs with fake documents or through identity theft? The Gang of 8 proposal contemplates a phased in expansion of the current verification system. That means that at some point after adoption of the proposal, implementation can be rescinded or simply extended ad infinitum as the administration has done with the requirement to institute a system of secure driver’s licenses.
Given the administration’s adoption of procedures for administratively providing work documents to illegal alien youth and the system of prioritization of enforcement activities that leaves illegal aliens who have not been convicted of felony crimes secure in their illegally obtained jobs, it is not a credible authority for deciding whether workplace security or security against overstayers has been achieved. The administration by its actions has disqualified itself from being an impartial judge of these needed security standards.
The Gang of 8 negotiations are aimed at paving the way for a new general amnesty. That is an objective that is wrong-headed and inimical to the national interest, but the objectives of gaining control over the border, and control over the problem of overstayers are worth pursuing in their own right.