EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the September 12, 2005, issue of National Review.
The Senate is again considering various proposals to address our massive illegal-alien problem, and the competing bills have one thing in common: They claim to offer “realistic” solutions to the supposedly unrealistic desire to enforce the law. Writer Tamar Jacoby, perhaps the most energetic salesman of the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill, used some form of “realistic” ten times in her testimony at a July Senate hearing. Senators Kennedy, Cornyn, Brownback, and Feingold all touted the realism of their preferred solutions at the same hearing, and the New York Times and Washington Post have done the same in numerous editorials.
The problem, of course, is that no one has checked whether our very real immigration bureaucracy is capable of implementing any of these proposals. And this is no trivial concern: The success of any proposal depends on registering and screening millions and millions of illegal aliens within a short period of time–a daunting task.
It is therefore necessary to look first at the administrative mandates of the two most popular immigration bills. The McCain-Kennedy bill would offer amnesty to the approximately 11 million illegal aliens in the United States, by re-labeling them “temporary” workers, and after six years, it would grant them permanent residence. The Department of Homeland Security would have to determine that the person was, in fact, an illegal alien on the date of the bill’s introduction; that he hadn’t left the United States in the meantime; that he was employed in the United States at the time of the bill’s introduction–”full time, part time, seasonally, or self-employed”; that he has remained so employed, which he can prove with records from the government, employers, labor unions, banks, remittances, or “sworn affidavits from nonrelatives who have direct knowledge of the alien’s work”; that he, if not employed, was a full-time student; that he has “not ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”; and that he is not a security threat, a criminal, a polygamist, or a child abductor. This required background check is to be conducted “as expeditiously as possible”–for potentially 11 million people . . .
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