May 24, 2013. Washington. The Immigration Reform Bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week while the House version is rapidly taking a different path. Opponents of the Senate version insist that if the Bill is eventually signed into law, the US is in store for another round of amnesty with little or no border security.
Senate Judiciary Committee hearing prior to passage of the immigration reform Bill. Image courtesy of the Washington Post.
“Si se puede! Si se puede! Si se puede!”
When the Senate Judiciary Committee made the first concrete move toward revamping America’s immigration policies and passed President Obama’s massive immigration reform overhaul, crowds of supporters were packed into the Senate hearing room. Echoing from the walls of Congress, they loudly and cheerfully chanted, “Si se puede!”
Si se puede means, ‘yes we can’ in Spanish. And as the final vote from the Senate Committee proved, yes they did. With help from Committee Republicans, the Democrat-supported immigration overhaul Bill will now move onto the full Senate. The final version has conservatives up in arms over what they call another amnesty bill with no border enforcement.
Final version – immigration reform Bill
The Amendments and changes to the initial draft of the 844-page 2013 Senate immigration reform Bill were fast and furious over the past month, mostly in an attempt to enlist GOP support. And the Committee’s final version has plenty for rank and file Republicans to be angry over. With the aid of key Senate Republican leaders such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Democrats were able to retain many of their demands, while Republican Amendments fell by the wayside by the dozens.
Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform commented after Committee passage, “While we’ve seen this type of an amnesty Bill before, it’s never been this brazen or this bad. The Gang of Eight is fending off every effort to ensure the American interest is being protected in this process. We hear false promises of future enforcement and massive increases in the rights of lawbreakers that will make immigration controls impossible to enforce.”
FAIR’s Dan Stein joins other critics arguing that the Bill guarantees citizenship, healthcare, welfare, and even employment to the millions of illegal Mexican immigrants already in America while giving nothing but lip service to the 1986 promise of border security.
Speaking of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act signed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, Stein goes on to say, “The IRCA was supposed to secure American borders and punish employers who hired illegal aliens. In return, 3.1 million illegal aliens were given amnesty and a pathway to citizenship. Yet today we have over 11 million illegal aliens in our country, no worksite enforcement, and the border is still as porous as it’s ever been.”
Senate Judiciary Committee – Roll Call
As detailed by NBCLatino.com, the Democratic version of the Immigration Reform Bill passed out of Committee due to the support of a handful of Republican Senators who crossed over and joined with Democrats. Frank Sharry of the pro-immigration group America’s Voice publicly paid homage to the Senate Republicans that voted for the Bill, “Of particular importance is the fact all of the Senate Democrats on the Committee as well as Gang of Eight Republicans Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham helped to ensure the path to citizenship remains achievable.”
The ‘Gang of Eight’ is a small group of US Senators pledged to work together to enact a compromise law to reform America’s immigration system. The group includes:
- Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO
- Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-IL
- Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ
- Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC
- Sen. John McCain, R-AZ
- Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ
- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL
- Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY
While only a handful of the above Senators are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that just moved the immigration reform Bill onto the full Senate floor, other Senate Republicans on the Committee stepped up and joined Democrats. From various media reports, below is how each member of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted on the Bill:
- Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT (Y)
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA (Y)
- Sen. Charles Grassley, R-IA (N)
- Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY (Y)
- Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT (Y)
- Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL (Y)
- Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL (N)
- Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI (Y)
- Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC (Y)
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN (Y)
- Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX (N)
- Sen. Al Franken, D-MN (Y)
- Sen. Michael Lee, R-UT (N)
- Sen. Christopher Coons, D-DE (Y)
- Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX (N)
- Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT (Y)
- Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ (Y)
- Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-HI (Y)
What’s in, what’s out
In order to secure the Immigration Bill’s passage in the Senate Judiciary Committee, many of the proposed Amendments were voted out of the legislation. By the same token, a number of additions had to be made to secure the support of some of the Senators who eventually voted in favor of the Bill.
Two of the most hotly debated items were high-tech jobs and same sex marriage. To gain the support of Sen. Hatch and America’s largest technology corporations, the number of foreign citizens eligible to work in high tech US jobs was increased from 65,000 to 100,000. And in an effort to retain the support of the full slate of Democratic Committee members as well as the three Republicans, an Amendment from Sen. Patrick Leahy that would recognize foreign same-sex marriages was pulled from the Bill.
Border Security cut out
Along with immediate welfare benefits for illegal immigrants, no other item is soliciting the scorn of conservatives more than the Senate’s abandonment of the multi-decade promise of border security. From the 1986 Reagan compromise to the 2006 follow-up border fencing law passed by Congress, the current version of the Senate immigration reform Bill cuts out any notion of physically securing the nation’s southern border.
The 1986 law promised the American people a secure border with Mexico in exchange for citizenship for the millions of illegal Mexicans in the US at the time. The 2006 law was supposed to make good on the Reagan-era law and force the construction of 700 miles of double-fencing. None of those security measures ever took place, leading to today’s estimated 11 million illegal Mexican immigrants in the US today.
One Amendment to the 2013 immigration reform Bill would have required 100 percent border security prior to any amnesty. Another Amendment would have forced the federal government to comply with the 2006 fence law before the new legislation could take effect. Both GOP Amendments were defeated in Committee.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer explained his opposition to the above two Amendments saying, “Let’s do it in a smart way. Let’s do it in a way that’s cost-effective. Let’s do it in a way that doesn’t blow a hole in our budget. And let the experts decide.” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was even less supportive of physical border security saying, “The key to me is not two thousand miles of fence. It’s not ninety percent operational control. It’s stopping the reason they come, and that is to get jobs. You control jobs, you will turn everything into a trickle.”
Not all Republicans abandoned the previous two decades’ promises to secure America’s border with Mexico. Senator Ted Cruz remarked, “The Committee has voted down every serious border security Amendment that has been presented here today.” While fellow GOP Senator Charles Grassley simply explained, “We screwed up and shouldn’t do it again.” In all, the Committee defeated 32 Amendments pertaining to border security.
National ID and RFID tracking
A lesser known section of the Senate immigration Bill is the creation of a national citizen database. Often called a National ID, modern technology has eliminated any need for a physical identification card. The same tiny microchips contained in credit cards, cell phones, electronics merchandise and a growing number of other items, would serve perfectly for a unique human ID system. It’s already been in use for our nation’s pets for three decades.
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The immigration Bill ties the proposed database to the E-Verify system used for verifying citizenship before employment. All US employers would be required to check the federal database to make sure any prospective employees are either US citizens or legally entitled to work in the country. The biggest problem is the way the Senate has laid out the plans for this national ID system.
As detailed by UnitedLiberty.org, the immigration reform legislation ties the long fought for E-Verify employment database with an even older idea – a National ID. The legislation included the mandatory citizen database and two possible ways for it to function:
- A photo-based system of identification
- A system to be developed by the Department of Homeland Security at a later date
First, unless the technology can utilize the retina of the human eye to insure accuracy, a visual picture-based system for identification like the ones Senators are describing is ridiculous. As its supporters explain however, employers can simply search the database for the applicant and when his picture pops up, the hiring manager can visually compare the picture to the individual standing before them.
As outdated as that method is, it is more likely that the federal government would enlist option number two in the immigration reform Bill and charge the Dept. of Homeland Security with developing its own system of national identification. And if the Obama administration has anything to say about it, the E-Verify system will use the RFID chip just as Obamacare will most likely utilize it.
What could be more perfect than a national ID, implanted into each citizen’s hand or forehead, verifying their picture, identity, employment eligibility, citizenship, medical history, medical warnings, emergency contact, home address, age, sex, credit card number, bank account number, employer, purchasing history, criminal history, outstanding warrants, phone records, past emails, current physical location, direction of movement, speed of movement, and a host of other RFID-driven details about every American citizen.
The UnitedLiberty.org account explains why a National ID system being crafted by the immigration reform Bill may be a bad idea. The outlet quotes Jim Harper of the CATO Institute warning, “There are many reasons to avoid a National ID, including their propensity to increase surveillance, the transfer of power they produce by giving governments and corporations a tool for tracking and control, and the experience of history.”
The folks at Wired.com had a similar reaction to the immigration reform Bill’s National ID provision. ‘This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants,’ the tech outlet wrote, ‘But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet.’
The site quoted the ACLU’s Chris Calabrese warning, “It starts to change the relationship between the citizen and state. You do have to get permission to do things. More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things.”
The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s David Bier echoed that warning saying, “The most worrying aspect is that this creates a principle of permission basically to do certain activities and it can be used to restrict activities. It’s like a National ID system without the card.”
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