House ‘Compromise’ Immigration Bill Fails to Adequately Address Broken System


Last Friday, House leadership released the text of their new “compromise” immigration bill.

Rather than making the right changes on border security, enforcement, and legal immigration reforms, the bill is based on a complex amnesty scheme. While supporters of the bill may claim that it addresses the broken system, it will actually perpetuate or even worsen the brokenness.

The new compromise bill is a weaker version of the Securing America’s Future Act introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Analysis of this bill found it flawed in several key areas:

  • Misses the opportunity to fundamentally make the U.S. legal immigration system merit-based.
  • Lacks increased enforcement resources for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the immigration court system.
  • Authorizes over $130 billion for border security, an amount that is way too high to be fiscally prudent, and includes wasteful spending on a biometric exit system that would provide little to no benefit in countering illegal immigration.
  • Provides legal status to those already in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an unfair amnesty for a little less than 700,000 illegal immigrants, albeit one of the more limited and tailored amnesties considered by Congress.

While the bill misses the mark in several respects, it does contain some good policies, including:

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  • Ending chain migration and the diversity lottery visas.
  • Robust anti-sanctuary city policies and support for state and local governments that want to help enforce federal immigration laws.
  • Fixing of various loopholes that inhibit U.S. immigration officials from effectively enforcing U.S. law.

From this flawed starting point, the new compromise bill mostly gets worse by:

  • Only partly stopping chain migration and still failing to turn the legal immigration system into one based on merit.
  • Failing to significantly address the problem of sanctuary cities or increasing the ability of state and local authorities to help enforce immigration law.
  • Creating an expanded and more complex amnesty that is best termed a merit-based, affirmative-action path to citizenship. (If that seems like a contradiction in terms, it is.)

Whenever Congress debates amnesty, it is a time-honored tradition for the bills to keep getting worse. That’s because when amnesty is on the table, everything else is just grease for the wheels. Money for border security, stopping sanctuary cities, closing loopholes, fixing the legal immigration system, etc.—these are all just bargaining chips that can change from one day to the next.

But what doesn’t change is that individuals in the U.S. illegally would receive legal status. This backroom, amnesty-first way of doing immigration reform means that all the other core immigration responsibilities of the federal government are treated as an afterthought and ensures that the broken immigration system will remain broken.

Not only does this way of doing businesses not fix the system, it actually makes it worse by encouraging more illegal immigration.

The U.S. has been here before. In 1986, the U.S. passed an amnesty and then failed to take the necessary steps to stop illegal immigration. The result was millions more illegal immigrants entering the country.

Amnesty sends a message that if you come to the U.S. illegally, eventually you too might be rewarded with citizenship. This perverse incentive only undermines enforcement and border security.

And of course, this bill plays favorites, prioritizing illegal immigrants over U.S. citizens. When a U.S. citizen breaks the law, they are punished. By providing amnesty to illegal immigrants, this bill rewards law breakers with the rights of citizenship.

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This new compromise immigration bill does just that—it compromises on the core responsibilities of the U.S. government. The American people expect their legislators to advance immigration policies that are good for the nation as a whole.

Rather than starting with amnesty, Congress should go back to the drawing board and tackle these various immigration issues in a step-by-step manner.

David Inserra specializes in cyber and homeland security policy, including protection of critical infrastructure, as policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies. Read his research.

A version of this Op-Ed previously appeared on The Daily Signal website under the headline, “House ‘Compromise’ Immigration Bill Fails to Adequately Address Broken System”

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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