Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, both Republicans, are making a last-ditch effort to bridge their party’s divide on immigration and pass a bill this year. We agree that the country, and the Republican party, would benefit if a sensible immigration plan were passed soon. The Pence-Hutchison plan isn’t one.
The pro-amnesty Republicans have responded more favorably to the plan than the enforcement-first Republicans, and both sides are reading the plan correctly. Its central component is to allow illegal immigrants to continue their jobs legally. All they would have to do is briefly leave the country and then return. As Pence himself puts it: “[A]n illegal alien currently employed in America will be willing to take a quick trip across the border to come back outside of the shadows and in a job where he does not fear a raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” This provision may stimulate the restaurant business in Tijuana, as illegals cross over for a quick lunch before their return, but it is hardly a serious immigration-enforcement idea.
When our illegal immigrant comes back, he will become a “guest worker.” As a guest worker, he will be able to keep renewing his “temporary” status and exploiting other features of the plan so as to remain here for 17 years. At that point, he can go through the process of getting a green card. Any children he has while here will be American citizens, which will make it more difficult to deport him should he overstay his welcome.
The plan’s supporters advertise its “trigger” mechanism: The guest-worker/amnesty would supposedly not go into effect until after enforcement was shown to have worked. But the triggers would be the achievement of bureaucratic objectives such as personnel targets. The amnesty would go into effect even if there were no evidence that the illegal population was shrinking.
We aren’t persuaded that the country needs a guest-worker program to begin with. Economic growth does not require a constant increase in the number of uneducated laborers.
The worthwhile portions of the plan are borrowed from the House Republicans’ enforcement bill. Almost everyone can agree that we should step up enforcement, at both the border and the workplace. So let’s enact that consensus and defer action on the issues that continue to divide us. That’s the compromise we favor.