Just What We Need: Another BRIDGE to Nowhere
In his State of the Union address, President Obama is expected to touch on immigration and say that he'll turn to Congress for new leadership on this issue. But several members of Congress recently renewed their support for the immigration status quo and don't plan to embrace anything resembling reform.
Last week, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and 21 co-sponsors introduced a House resolution called the Bipartisan Reform of Immigration through Defining Good Enforcement ("BRIDGE") Resolution. The title says it all. The resolution enshrines the principles of an enforcement-first, enforcement-only immigration policy with little attention to changing the broken, ineffective elements of the current system.
First, BRIDGE proposes that Congress should make an employer verification system--known as E-Verify--mandatory for all businesses. Research shows that E-Verify is a system riddled with errors and remains vulnerable to employer misuse. In a recent study, the Office of the Inspector General found evidence that Social Security Administration failed to verify one in five new hires. A highly accurate employer verification mechanism should be a part of any comprehensive immigration reform scheme, but this clearly isn't it.
Second, the resolution affirms the federal role in creating and maintaining a border security infrastructure that "prevents the unauthorized passage of persons or contraband." The budget of Customs and Border Protection has nearly doubled from $6.0 billion in FY 2003 to $11.4 billion in FY 2010. The number of border patrol agents at our southern border has ballooned from 3,555 in FY 1992 to 17,415 in FY 2009. Despite these and other increases in enforcement, the estimated number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. has steadily increased. The status quo on enforcement just isn't working. So why uphold it?
The third piece of the BRIDGE resolution reiterates the traditional "no amnesty" response to immigration reform. Any new policy should not "legalize, grant amnesty for, or confer any other legal status condoning the otherwise unlawful entry or presence in the United States of any individual." What about the 12 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the U.S. and contributing to our economy?
In a press release on the resolution, co-sponsor Representative Kratovil (D-MD) shows that support for the broken status quo on immigration is truly bi-partisan. "This resolution calls for Congress to take a common sense approach to immigration reform: enforcing the rules already on the books, punishing those who knowingly choose to violate them." But common sense on immigration reform demands that we restructure our policies so they actually work better, and not perpetuate past and present failures.