The immigration bill, according to its critics, hands out amnesty to illegal immigrants as soon as some ineffectual steps toward enforcement are taken. Don’t believe it. The bill provides amnesty as soon as it is enacted.
The Bush administration wants to divert attention from this fact by talking about “Z visas,” and some of the critics have fallen into this trap. But the government will start issuing those visas only after it meets its enforcement benchmarks — if that ever happens. Illegal immigrants are eligible for “probationary” legal status, on the other hand, as soon as the bill passes. The government has only one business day to run a background check on people applying for this status.
Even those illegal immigrants who have already gotten deportation orders are eligible for this status, if the Department of Homeland Security concludes that deportation would cause “extreme hardship” to the illegal immigrant or his family. As soon as the bill passes, deportation judges are out of work, as a practical matter, and states, localities, and federal agents will no longer be enforcing immigration laws.
What happens if the government never meets its benchmarks? Does anyone really believe that the government will, at that point, make all of the illegal immigrants who have gotten “probationary” legal status illegal again?
The bill provides amnesty immediately, and forever; the “triggers” and “benchmarks” for law enforcement are meaningless; and no one who votes for the bill has any excuse for not knowing these things.