Stalemate for Immigration reform this year?

Per the 3/17/06 Christian Science Monitor (link not available),”Steven Camarota [research director for the Center for Immigration Studies] doubts that Congress will agree on an immigration bill this election year. He sees too great a divide between the views of “elites” and the “public” over the economic and social merit of a massive inflow of foreigners. A legislative stalemate would result in a continuation of what a study for the conservative Heritage Foundation calls “a policy of benign neglect.”

The elites, including business leaders, would like an amnesty for the nearly 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States – though it wouldn’t be called an amnesty but a “guest worker program,” perhaps. They welcome cheap immigrant labor. Contrariwise, polls show the public is strongly opposed to letting undocumented immigrants (many with fake papers) obtain citizenship.

The Republican Party is divided on how to deal with the issue, making a resolution even less likely. Democrats are also divided, but they can just sit back and watch the fuss. Fear of terrorism has led to more calls for reform. Almost four of every 100 people in the country today sneaked across the borders or overextended their visa, according to numbers in a new Pew Hispanic Center report. Some 850,000 illegal immigrants have entered the country annually for each of the past six years. If so many illegals can get in, the theory goes, couldn’t terrorists use the same routes and get in as well?

On Dec. 16, the House passed a tough border-security bill. It includes a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border, the first-ever criminal penalties for illegals, and a requirement that businesses check the status of new hires on a federal electronic database. If enforced, the bill could stem the flow of new illegal immigrants. If Mexicans, Central Americans, and others can’t get jobs in the US, they won’t come. The Senate is still working on legislation. But proposals include a guest-worker program that would include what Mr. Camarota regards as amnesty in disguise for illegals living here now.

In rich nations, no program of guest or temporary workers has ever led to such workers going home after their time was up. To think they will is “just silly,” Camarota says. In Germany, most Turkish “guest” workers have remained. The same is true of South Asians in Britain and North Africans in France. If a tough law is passed to limit illegals, any plan to send them home would not be enforced, Camarota predicts. Politically powerful business and religious groups would block such action. Making matters more difficult, illegals bear some 380,000 children a year. These babies become US citizens automatically.

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