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Will the Immigration BIll Secure Our Borders?

May 31, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

John Hawkins of RIght Wing News conducted a survey among right-of-center bloggers on the Senate’s immigration bill. Not surprisingly, they were in strong agreement with most of their responses, indicating that the bill is both bad bad policy and bad politically. But on only one question did everyone agree. When asked, “Do you believe that the bill in the Senate would, if passed, secure
the border and stop the influx of significant numbers of illegal aliens into the United States,” one hundred percent answered “no.”

At first glance, it looks like the bill is designed to ensure, first and foremost, that the U.S./Mexico border is secured. Border security enhancements are among the benchmarks that would have to be met in order to activate the bill’s proposed guest worker and path to citizenship programs. Section 1 of the bill lays out five measures that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security will have to certify as “funded, in place, and in operation” before the other programs kick in. Three of the five requirements are border security measures.

But, “funded, in place, and in operation” does not necessarily mean effective. Earlier this week on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace questioned whether this certification requirement is the best way to ensure that the borders are actually secure. “Some critics are saying instead of bureaucratic input as the triggers, why not make it results-oriented triggers, that you could not have any of the reforms — the path to legalization, all of that — until you had demonstrated that the borders were secure, that the number of people crossing the borders is now under control.”

There is some doubt as to whether the borders can actually be secured. As New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said this week, “If you build a 10-foot fence, someone will use an 11-foot ladder.” If that is the case — if people will always adapt to new challenges and find a way into the U.S. — then results-oriented triggers would either never be triggered, or they would be, only to find out later that people had moved on to a new way of getting around the system. While both scenarios do not stop illegal immigration, the first does not allow anything to be done about current illegal immigrants and the guest worker program

There is another reason why critics claim that “security doesn’t come first in this bill.” In their list of 26 reasons to kill the bill, Immigration Watchdog put this as number one:

>This bill would immediately legalize illegal aliens that are currently in the country. The only way Congress will actually see to it that the border security and enforcement provisions in the bill will be implemented is if they have to do them before they even consider an amnesty for the people who are here.

Indeed, The bill would give probationary “Z visas” to current illegal immigrants before any security benchmarks had been met. The continuation of the path to citizenship plan would have to wait until the security triggers had been met. So, illegal immigrants would not be given citizenship — and all the benefits that come along with it — before the border security measures have been met, but they would be given a legal, probationary status and be allowed to work.

Senator Judd Gregg (R, NH) recently got approval for his amendment to “ensure control of our Nation’s borders and strengthen enforcement of our immigration laws.” It calls for a further increase the number of border patrol agents and even more fence to be built along the border.

The need for increased border security is one of the only bipartisan aspects of this bill. What can be done to the bill to strengthen this critical part of the bill? Put in place results-oriented triggers? Wait on the “Z visas” until the borders are secured?

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