NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 14, 2005

Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) have unveiled an amnesty program that is short on enforcement and long on incentives for illegal immigrants, according to Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

The bill is similar to the Immigration and Reform Act of 1986, which prohibited employers from hiring illegal aliens. However, enforcement of the 1986 act soon fell by the wayside after intense lobbying by anti-border supporters. Since then, about 10 million illegals have entered the country.

The McCain and Kennedy bill goes something like this:

  • Illegal workers are eligible for green cards if they have been in this country six or more years, and undergo a background check, pay fines and pass an English and civics test -- similar to the 1986 Act except for the addition of the six-year period.
  • The "guest-worker" provision would allow 400,000 new foreign workers per year, and possibly more if businesses are able to employ them; guest workers would be eligible for a green card after a four-year period.
  • The bill calls for various enforcement programs, which Krikorian notes are "laughably thin;" in fact, it puts the job of auditing firms for compliance under the direction of the Labor Department.
  • Furthermore, the bill does not grant state and local law enforcement officials any new authority to enforce the law.

Supporters deny that it gives illegal aliens any incentive to come into the country, but critics say that even a modest fine, as discussed in the bill, will not prevent them from crossing the border.

The Senate recently defeated a more targeted amnesty proposal that would have given farm workers and their families legal status, so it is unlikely that the McCain-Kennedy bill will pass. Moreover, a new "pro-borders" movement is gaining support among voters who have not usually put immigration problems at the top of their list, says Krikorian.

Source: Mark Krikorian, ?The Latest Amnesty,? National Review, vol., LVII, no. 10, June 6, 2005.

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