Friday, May 26, 2006

Lugar And Bayh Get It Right On Immigration Reform

As an immigration attorney, I am very proud today of Indiana's two senators, Richard Lugar (R) and Evan Bayh (D) for rising above the fear-mongering of anti-immigrant extremists and voting for the passage of landmark immigration reform legislation yesterday. The bill pushed by Senators John McCain (R) and Edward Kennedy (D) surprisingly passed handily by a margin of 62-36. Even more surprising is the fact that 23 Republican senators rebuffed the prevailing conservative sentiment within the party and voted for the bill.

It is estimated that there are as many as 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. The Pew Hispanic Center puts the number of Indiana's illegal immigrants at 65,000. Many of these immigrants have been living and working in the U.S. for many years. Many have U.S. born children, and still many others are married to U.S. citizens. The extremists in Congress want to take punitive action against these persons, including charging them with crimes and forcefully rounding them up and deporting them from the country. That solution is neither practical nor humane.

Senators Lugar and Bayh have joined the voices of reason on the debate in supporting a legal path to citizenship for otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants who have been present in the U.S. for a minimum period of time and a guest worker visa program for later arrivals who are willing to accept jobs "for which there are few takers" as Sen. Bayh explains. The legislation also includes dramatically stepped up border security and enforcement. That's also a good thing and part of the "comprehensive" approach Sen. Lugar says he supports.

The Senate must now reconcile its differences with the House, and the two sides are far apart right now, although the size of recent immigration demonstrations across the country may have some House members reconsidering the draconian view they expressed in last year's House-passed version.

Rep. Mike Pence (R) has offered a compromise, which is completely unworkable. It calls for a guest worker program, but it would force the 12 million illegal immigrants to leave the country before re-applying for re-entry under the guest worker program. He would use private contractors to run the guest worker program. If he thinks people would run the risk of leaving the country voluntarily, leaving behind their families and current jobs in the hopes of getting a guest worker visa, he better think again. And if he cares about national security, the last thing he would support is turning over any part of our legal immigration system to a private company. Our nation's universities largely administer our student visa program, which has been frought with problems and which provided safe entry for several of the 9/11 terrorists. Private contractors will be driven by profits and not national security concerns in fulfilling their responsibilities.

The rest of Indiana's congressional delegation should get behind Lugar and Bayh. Rep. Julia Carson (D) and Rep. Mark Souder (R) were the only two members of Indiana's House delegation to vote against the draconian House-passed version. It's time for the rest of the delegation to rethink its views.


Rob said...

I'm not an immigration lawyer but even I can tell that draconian immigration laws won't work. All it'll do is drive the those here illegally further underground.

While I haven't always agreed with his positions and votes, I've always found Sen Lugar to be respectable. His vote here further solidifies that belief.

Anonymous said...

Great. Two immigration attorneys think this is good legislation. Farmers love ethanol requirements also. I will give you credit, you at least acknowledge where your bread is buttered. Gentleman this is nothing but a political punt just like social security. Everybody knows there is a huge problem but nobody wants to do the right thing. As good and as ethical these people may be, they are still illegal. What do you not understand about that?

You may not realize it but you have just endorsed legislation that runs counter to your own proclamation:

….and no special privileges or immunities shall be granted to any class of citizens which are not granted on the same terms to all citizens.

What do you say to the immigrants that came here legally? What do you say to the people that have waited for years to come here legally? There is so much more to this issue than just your hypocrisy but I’ll wait for your reply

Gary R. Welsh said...

If it were only that simple anonymous. The truth of the matter is our border security along Mexico has been deliberately made lax by our federal government. Border patrol agents have been practically waving them in for the past decade or more. Our federal government makes it legal for otherwise illegal workers to obtain taxpayer identification numbers in order that they can open up bank accounts and pay taxes to the government. Our government even accepts taxes paid on wages of workers using fraudulent social security numbers. Our armed forces allow illegal immigrants to join our military and receive benefits as veterans. The truth of the matter is that our own government has been duplicitous when it comes to illegal immigration. It's hard to punish people who the federal government indirectly encouraged to come here and work illegally in the firs instance. And the very constitutional provision you cite has been interpreted by U.S. courts to require that illegal immigrants not be denied benefits offered by the government. So there you have it.