Kathryn, that Cornyn amendment is a good example of the kind of final “bipartisan compromise” Congress may settle for: The 12-20 million illegal immigrants will get legal residency in the United States by the end of the next business day (and, incidentally, I’d love to see a list of other US agencies which guarantee full service within 24 hours – or is the express line only available to lawbreaking foreigners?), but terrorists will have to be subjected to what Sheila Jackson-Lee described to me as an “ongoing background check”.
The more you look at this bill the more it seems just the usual Beltway kabuki. Secretary Chertoff says in a time of war we need to know who’s in the country. Okay. But is dumping a gazillion new applications on a sclerotic immigration system the way to do that? Mohammed Atta was the second most famous terrorist in the world and on the front page of every American newspaper but the then INS still sent him a valid US visa six months to the day after he died, and without even updating his address from that Florida flight school to Big Hole In The Ground, Lower Manhattan. And the excuse the agency made was, oh well, we’re only issuing visas to dead terrorists not living ones – which Americans pretty much had to take on trust and which seems a distinction far less likely to be maintained once there’s another 15 million in the system entitled to next-day service. If I were Mullah Omar, I’d apply for a Z-visa. The odds have got to be better than even.
So it will be a fraud on “conservative” enforcement grounds. As for “liberal” fast-track-to-citizenship grounds, I would be surprised if most of those “undocumented” choose to go beyond limited legalization. If you’re remitting vast percentages of your income back to your village in Mexico every month, US citizenship is only going to complicate your life, given that the IRS is one of the few revenue agencies on the planet to claim global jurisdiction. Some things are best left “living in the shadows”.
“Comprehensive” reforms usually backfire in spectacular ways: the “war on poverty” gave us ongoing cross-generational poverty, etc. “Comprehensive” immigration reform will metastasize illegal immigration, embed the “undocumented” support networks as a permanent feature of American life, expand identity fraud, and make it even more impossible for Washington to know which aliens are in the country at any one time.