The GOP’s Immigration Bill is Terrible

The Republicans are arguing that instead of just fixing the DACA problem and letting the DREAMers stay, Congress should adopt a comprehensive immigration reform package. Both can be done, of course, one after the other. But the bill they’re advancing to do that is terrible in a number of ways, as David Bier of the Cato Institute details.

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The bill, titled the Securing America’s Future Act, does offer the DREAMers something good, but not good enough — nonimmigrant status that is renewable forever. But it doesn’t give them permanent residency or a path to citizenship. But there are two different bills here. The Senate bill is much worse, offering only a three-year Visa that is not renewable. And some other provisions are far worse:

By far the worst aspect of the SAF Act are the cuts to legal immigration overall (pp. 5-21). The bill authors claim that it would cut immigration by 25 percent—some 2.6 million people per decade—but in reality, it would be closer to 430,000, almost a 40 percent decline. This would be the largest policy-driven reduction in legal immigration since the awful, racially motivated acts of the 1920s.

SAF also changes asylum law to make it more difficult for asylum seekers to apply by greatly increasing the standard of proof to apply for asylum (p. 23). I have previously written about how these changes will make it virtually impossible for asylum seekers who don’t already have attorneys waiting for them and evidence gathered to prove their claims to even apply for asylum.

The worst enforcement provision is criminalizing simply being in the United States without status or violating any aspect of civil immigration law (p. 170). This would turn millions of unauthorized immigrants into criminals overnight. It would also criminalize legal immigrants who fail to update their addresses, carry their green card with them at all times, or otherwise abide by the million inane regulations that Congress imposes on them. Take, for example, the status provided to Dreamers in this bill. It requires them to maintain an annual income of at least 125 percent of the poverty line (p. 396). If they fall below that level for 90 days—not only are they subject to deportation again—they would be criminals. This bill literally criminalizes poverty among Dreamers.

That last provision is just vile. And that doesn’t even get into all the problems with building a border wall. This is a terrible piece of legislation. First things first, fix the DACA problem and let the DREAMers stay, with permanent resident status and a path to citizenship.

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