An Anti-Immigrant Bill Called Reform
On Monday, 67 senators voted for cloture on Hoeven-Corker, a “border security” amendment to the immigration reform bill. The vote virtually guarantees that immigration reform will pass in the Senate. At the same time, it also guarantees the bill’s costs to immigrant communities will far outweigh its benefits.
The refrain that Democrats and their allies have been repeating – that the immigration reform bill offers a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants – is simply a lie. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the bill were to pass, roughly 4 million of the current 11.5 million undocumented immigrants would be excluded. Their estimate is overly optimistic, and it’s possible that nearly half of undocumented immigrants would never benefit from the legalization. But even those who would eventually benefit are in for a long, difficult, precarious path.
The reform bill would create a bleak future for millions of undocumented immigrants. To kick off the post-reform era, ICE would be required to organize a massive deportation campaign, rounding up 90 percent of all immigrants who overstayed a visa in the previous year. As it progressed, day-to-day life would become significantly more difficult for undocumented people than it is currently.
Once all legitimate businesses adopt the E-Verify employment authorization system required under the proposal, more immigrants would end up in dangerous, unregulated jobs where they are misclassified as independent contractors for the shadiest of companies. If a worker presented a fake Social Security number to her boss, she could be imprisoned for five years.
Undocumented immigrants are currently issued driver’s licenses in nine states, but they would likely lose that privilege under reform. The immigration bill requires that state licenses comply with the REAL ID Act and other federal regulations restricting identification cards. If a state does not comply, most of its residents would be forced to obtain a US passport solely for work authorization purposes. That is more than enough incentive to guarantee states will restrict driver’s licenses.
There is also the matter of the border. Before the Hoeven-Corker amendment, the bill was set to infuse an additional $6.5 billion into militarizing the US-Mexico border. But under the amendment, which is so bad that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer initially expressed support, that number comes to well over $40 billion. The plan involves doubling the size of the Border Patrol, completing 700 miles of fencing, and flying more aerial drones over the area. The Border Patrol would set up more checkpoints in border communities andcommit dozens more human rights abuses each day. Migrants would still cross, but in increasingly remote areas, and more people would die as a result. If apprehended, border crossers would face between one and 30 years in prison, depending on their prior criminal and immigration records.