I had to read this over a few times before I could bring myself to believe it. The Bush Admin has typically been supportive of amnesty measures but not this time. This is actually a pretty tough statement (they even bring up document fraud) that reflects a lot of the concerns for those who opposed the amnesty bill in June.
Background: A few weeks ago, Senator Durbin (D-IL) tried to run the Dream Act through. Fortunately, people were keeping an eye out and quick reaction resulted in the bill failing (again). The Dream Act was also attempted in September as well as during the immigration bill debacle earlier this year. Even though the Dream Act has been up for four votes thus far, it is worth keeping watch for another attempt to try to sneak it in despite what appears to be strong public opposition (if you trust polls…).
The Administration continues to believe that the Nation’s broken immigration system requires comprehensive reform. This reform should include strong border and interior enforcement, a temporary worker program, a program to bring the millions of undocumented aliens out of the shadows without amnesty and without animosity, and assistance that helps newcomers assimilate into American society. Unless it provides additional authorities in all of these areas, Congress will do little more than perpetuate the unfortunate status quo.
The Administration is sympathetic to the position of young people who were brought here illegally as children and have come to know the United States as home. Any resolution of their status, however, must be careful not to provide incentives for recurrence of the illegal conduct that has brought the Nation to this point. By creating a special path to citizenship that is unavailable to other prospective immigrants—including young people whose parents respected the Nation’s immigration laws—S. 2205 falls short. The Administration therefore opposes the bill.
The primary change wrought by S. 2205 would be to establish a preferential path to citizenship for a special class of illegal aliens. Specifically, S. 2205 awards permanent status to any illegal alien who is under 30, has been in the United States for five years after arriving as a child, and has completed two years of college or in the uniformed services. This path to citizenship is unavailable to any other alien, no matter how much promise he or she may have, no matter how much he or she may contribute to American society. Moreover, the path that S. 2205 creates would allow illegal aliens to obtain a green card before many individuals who are currently lawfully waiting in line.
Sponsors of S. 2205 argue that the bill is necessary in order to give children who are illegal aliens incentives to obtain an education. But it is difficult to reconcile that professed aim with the bill’s retroactivity provisions: even those who attended college years earlier will be eligible for a green card.
The legal status that the bill grants its beneficiaries means that they can petition almost instantly to bring family members into the country. It also places them on the fast track to citizenship because they can immediately begin accruing the residence time in the United States that is necessary for naturalization. Finally, this legal status entitles the bill’s beneficiaries to certain welfare benefits within five years.
The bill is also indiscriminate in whom it would make eligible for the program. For example, S. 2205 includes loopholes that would authorize permanent status for certain aliens convicted of multiple misdemeanors and even felonies. The open-ended nature of S. 2205 is objectionable and will inevitably lead to large-scale document fraud. The path to citizenship remains open for decades, thus creating a strong temptation for future illegal aliens to purchase fraudulent documents on a burgeoning black market. Moreover, the bill’s confidentiality provisions are drawn straight from the 1986 amnesty law and will provide the same haven for fraud and criminality as that law did.
Immigration is one of the top concerns of the American people—and of this Administration—but it needs to be addressed in a comprehensive and balanced way that avoids creating incentives for problems in the future.