While the media and many politicians focus on President Trump’s verbiage in response to the immigration legislation presented by the “Gang of Six,” one major immigration reform group says the plan itself is nothing but an amnesty push for more than 10 million people.
The Gang of Six is led by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
At issue is the effort to provide legal status to young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. In 2012, President Obama unilaterally granted legal status to young people who agreed to sign up with the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, or DACA.
President Trump announced in September that he would end the program in March of this year and lawmakers were ostensibly working on a bill to continue granting legal status to DACA enrollees while also tightening some immigration restrictions. Most estimates suggest there are between 800,000-850,000 people impacted by DACA.
Instead, Numbers USA reports the Gang of Six bill extends permanent legal protection to all illegal immigrants who fit the DACA criteria rather than those who actually enrolled and sets them on a path to citizenship.
“They expand DACA to include the entire pool of dreamer illegal aliens. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that that population exceeds three million and is about 3.3 million,” said Numbers USA’s Chris Chmielinski.
In fact, Numbers USA has released a worksheet comparing the Gang of Six bill with a much more conservative plan from house Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, known as the Securing America’s Future Act. It also lines up both plans against President Trump’s immigration reform priorities.
He says there’s a big difference between DACA and everyone who fits under the ‘dreamer’ label.
“When President Obama announced the DACA program, he limited it to folks that entered prior to 2007, had maintained continuous presence until 2012 and were under the age of 31.
“The dreamer population is much, much more broadly defined than that. And again, the Migration Policy Institute estimates that population is about 3.3 million,” said Chmielinski.
So how does the estimate get to 10 million? By opening the doors for the parents of the dreamers.
“It also offers an amnesty for the parents of the dreamers. So if you assume that all the parents have two parents, that’s another 6.6 million. 6.6 million plus and 3.3. million and you’re at 10 million,” said Chmielinski, who says that is clear-cut amnesty even though the parents are not in line for citizenship.
“We define amnesty as anything that allows illegal aliens to stay in the country and work in the United States,” said Chmielinski.
Furthermore, Chmielinski says those parents actually could wind up being rewarded with citizenship.
“Once the dreamers become citizens, they will be able to sponsor their parents under the chain migration laws, because even though they say they address chain migration, they really don’t,” said Chmielinski.
In fact, it’s unclear what immigration enforcement advocates get in exchange for legalizing DACA in the Gang of Six bill. Chmielinski points out the plan does not address chain migration or the visa lottery in any serious way. It does provide almost $1.6 billion for border fencing, but it comes with a massive caveat.
“They appropriate a little funding towards border fencing, but they say that this $1.6 billion they’re assigning can only be used for existing fencing. They’re telling the administration that as part of this deal, you cannot build any new fencing or any new walls. You can only use the money to repair existing fencing,” said Chmielinski.
The Goodlatte bill, in contrast, gives the government broad authority to build new fences and even walls. However, it does not include funding for such projects, meaning lawmakers would have to approve a separate bill to pay for such construction.
Overall, Chmielinski is encouraged by the Goodlatte bill. He says it limits chain migration to an immigrant’s spouse and children, although there is an exception for elderly parents to come over without a path to citizenship so that their children can care for them.
The Goodlatte plan also scraps the visa lottery entirely, makes overstaying a visa a crime and mandates all employers use E-Verify to confirm their new and existing employees are all in the country legally.
Chmielinski also says Goodlatte wants to use cutting edge technology to keep track of who is in the country.
“It requires the implementation of a bio-metric entry-exit system. This is something that was actually passed by Congress in the mid-2000’s as a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. This is basically a tracking system. Every non-citizen that enters the United States is checked in to the country and then we check them out when they leave, so we know when folks overstay,” said Chmielinski.
The Goodlatte bill seems to have little traction on Capitol Hill right now and the mainstream media have ignored it completely while often hailing the Gang of Six bill. The issue prominent this week as Democrats try to attach legalization of DACA to legislation to keep the federal government running at full capacity.
So what is likely to happen? Chmielinski doesn’t expect much to happen for a few weeks.
“You’ll see a [continuing resolution] passed for about a month. Then over the next three to four weeks, this DACA situation will completely play out. But I think this might be the last time we’re talking about it. I think if nothing’s taken care of over the next month, then nothing will probably happen on it,” said Chmielinski.