Ted Cruz released a new, detailed immigration plan today. It’s not everything I would want, in that he doesn’t call for an actual reduction in overall legal immigration levels; he merely opposes any further increases in the current economic environment.
But considering that he was, until recently, in favor of increased legal immigration, his plan is a huge improvement, and an important development.
It’s no surprise that the sections of the plan that address illegal immigration are strong. But the level of specificity is encouraging. Some of the goals will be harder to achieve than others, but none of it is pie-in-the-sky. It calls for, among other things, better border fencing, entry-exit tracking of visa holders, ending catch-and-release, and reining in sanctuary cities. Of particular note: the plan calls for ending the deductibility of wages paid to illegals, to create an incentive for employers to obey the law. Also, the plan pledges to cut off visas to countries that refuse to take back their own citizens (something required by law but ignored by the administration).
The only problem I see in the enforcement section is that it specifically does not call for nationwide use of E-Verify, pledging instead to “strengthen” and “expand” it.
The legal immigration portion also has much to recommend it. It’s no coincidence that his campaign unveiled his plan during a speech in Orlando, given Disney’s notorious replacement of American IT workers last year with foreigners on H-1B visas. The plan has a long section on reforms to the H-1B program to prevent it from being used to import cheap labor and replace Americans.
A very important plank is a commitment to enforcing the “public-charge doctrine” by holding legal immigrants and their sponsors responsible for any use of taxpayer-funded services.
The plan also calls for ending the visa lottery and family chain migration (though it doesn’t specify which of the specific family categories he’d push to abolish). These changes would not necessarily translate into a reduction in the overall level of immigration, though, given that the pledges to “Halt any increases in legal immigration so long as American unemployment remains unacceptably high.”
So there are two big holes still here: the plan doesn’t mandate E-Verify and doesn’t seek to cut overall immigration. Those are important shortcomings, but given where Cruz was, this plan is a very important step forward. And the plan is all the more notable when compared to other candidates. Santorum certainly has the best immigration platform, which is similar to Cruz’s but without the two holes I mentioned. But Santorum is not going to be the nominee. Trump’s immigration plan is also quite good, likewise not having these two shortcomings; but Trump clearly hasn’t read his own plan and seems to just say whatever pops into his mind at any given time.
Rubio’s immigration plan not only lacks the specificity of Cruz’s, but doesn’t represent a real change from the Gang of Eight bill. It clearly foresees increased immigration, and doesn’t commit to enforcement first. It prefaces the amnesty section this way, referring to enforcement measures and increased legal immigration: “Once both of these reforms have been passed…” (Emphasis added.) In other words, enact those deconstructed sections of the Gang of Eight bill, and then, before enforcement is actually up and running, he can move to amnesty.
Rubio seems to be hinting in spoken comments that he would wait on amnesty until the enforcement tools are fully implemented, but that’s not what his website says. Given the deceptive and mendacious way he pushed Chuck Schumer’s Gang of Eight bill, he’d need to commit – in writing – to any change to an enforcement-first stance before he could be believed.