Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pence Immigration Plan For "Society's Elite"

Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform does a pretty good job discrediting Rep. Mike Pence's immigration reform proposal, which AI has been highly critical of, in an opinion piece in today's Star. Stein, who opposes any plan which would provide a legalized path to citizenship for the nation's nearly 12 million illegal immigrants, thinks Pence's plan is completely unrealistic. I agree, but for different reasons. He thinks Pence's "would benefit society's elite who would be insulated from the effects of the policies they encourage, reward those who have broken our laws, but do irreparable harm to the majority of Americans." In particular, he takes aim at Pence's plan to allow the privatization of the issuance of work visas:

The Indiana congressman wants to privatize U.S. immigration policy, permitting big business to import unlimited cheap labor at the expense of U.S. workers and taxpayers. By doing so, we would reward the same special interests that have helped create the huge mess in which we now find ourselves. Employers working with recruiters and labor contractors have been the primary culprits attracting low-wage illegal immigrants who strain community resources. These are the last people who should be placed in charge of the henhouse.

During the first three years, the Pence plan would allow unlimited numbers of new "W" visa foreign workers and their families to enter and work in the U.S. labor market. Thereafter, the Department of Labor would set a cap based on criteria of its own choosing.

The plan requires illegal immigrants to leave the country, fill out some papers at what Pence calls "Ellis Island Centers," and then return to the U.S. as "W" visa-holders. The Department of Homeland Security, now besieged by millions of applications constituting years of work, would have only three business days to approve millions of new applications. Can anyone spell c-h-a-o-s?

The Pence plan would outsource the administration of U.S. immigration policies to private, for-profit job placement agencies that would handle sensitive and critical data such as criminal history records and fingerprints. However poorly the government is administering our immigration policies, their theoretical goal is to protect the interests of the American people. The goal of a private job-placement agency is to place as many foreign workers as possible and make money. Public interest would at best be a remote priority.

Six years after receiving the "W" visa, the former illegal immigrants could apply for a path to citizenship -- amnesty -- which means that someone who entered the country illegally would get an advantage over someone who remained outside and played by the rules. That is both unfair and immoral.

Stein's observations about the pitfalls of privatizing the issuance of visas are right on point and echo concerns AI has raised previously. What Pence fails to understand is that many illegal immigrants have not only jobs but family members, including spouses and children, he expects them to abandon and return to their native country in hopes that their work visa is successfully processed, and that they are permitted to re-enter. The sheer numbers of people involved make the plan completely impractical. He expects to process as many visas in a few days as the government currently processes over several years. After the last amnesty program took effect, it took the former INS years to eliminate the backlog of cases which resulted from a few million cases. No we are talking about at least 3 times as many cases.

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