Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Durbin's letter

I received a letter from Senator Durbin a couple of weeks ago. Frankly, I was impressed with the fact that he actually told me his position on immigration. As regular readers already know, both Hastert and Obama sent me letters explaining what happened with immigration reform this summer WITHOUT telling me their position.

Here is the text of the Durbin letter:

“August 29, 2007
Thank you for contacting me about immigration reform. I appreciate hearing from you.
Our nation faces a host of problems as a result of years of inattention to our immigration policies. An estimated 800,000 illegal immigrants are added to our population each year. Roughly half of them enter the country illegally, while the other half overstay a temporary visa.
Illegal immigration raises national security and economic issues that must be addressed. I have worked to reform our immigration system comprehensively, in a way that is tough, realistic, and consistent with our moral values.
The immigration reform legislation the Senate considered in June would have improved border security by increasing manpower and deploying new technology. Many constituents asked for a bill that will secure our borders before putting illegal immigrants on a path to legal status. In response to that concern, a “trigger” was included in the immigration bill, requiring that the bill’s border security and enforcement provisions be implemented before any program is started that would address the status of illegal immigrants.
The reform bill would have strengthened enforcement against employers who hire illegal immigrants. The federal government must crack down on employers who ignore our nation’s laws and hire illegal immigrants. The reform legislation sought to strengthen the penalties for hiring illegal immigrants and provide more resources to enforce these laws. Although worksite enforcement alone cannot solve the problems caused by illegal immigration, it is an essential element of comprehensive reform.
If we are serious about reform, we also need a realistic approach to the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants who live and work in our country. Mass deportation of these illegal immigrants is not an option. It is impractical and too expensive. Experts estimate that deporting all of the undocumented immigrants would cost over $200 billion, five times the annual budget of the Department of Homeland Security. Instead, we need to offer immigrants who work hard and demonstrate a long-term commitment to be law-abiding, contributing members of our society a chance to pay fines and earn their way to permanent legal status over the course of many years.
Some voices in the immigration debate called the Senate bill an amnesty for illegal immigrants. I oppose amnesty because it is not right to reward those who have broken the law with automatic citizenship. The bill we considered would not have given amnesty to illegal immigrants.
Under the bill, undocumented aliens would have been able to earn their way to legal status only if they had a clean criminal record, were continuously employed, paid thousands of dollars in application fees and penalties, passed a security background check, passed a medical exam, learned English, learned U. S. history and government, paid all back taxes, went to the back of the line behind all applicants already waiting for green cards, and left the United States to apply for legal permanent residence at a foreign consulate.
If we do not give people who are already a part of our communities the chance to earn their way to legal status, we will not solve the problem of illegal immigration. People who are living here illegally will stay in the shadows instead of coming forward to register. This hurts our national security and hurts American workers, who are being undercut by illegal labor.
Strengthening our border security is a critical component of reform. Soon after the debate on immigration reform, the Senate passed a Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would fully fund – and go beyond – the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2008 for border security and immigration enforcement. I voted for the bill. It includes $570 million to hire 3,000 additional border patrol agents; $1 billion for border fencing, infrastructure, and technology; $146 million for 4,000 additional detention beds (3,050 more than the President requested); additional funding for law enforcement officials who arrest illegal aliens and ensure their return to their home countries; and $15 million above the President’s request to expand worksite enforcement investigations. The bill includes $3 billion in emergency funding to ensure that the necessary border security and enforcement provisions are implemented quickly.
I am deeply concerned about the potential impact of proposed temporary guest worker programs on the American workforce. In contrast to those immigrants who are already here and actively engaged in our workforce, guest worker programs would bring in a large future flow of workers who might otherwise never come here. I voted to eliminate the guest worker program in the Senate immigration bill. When that effort was unsuccessful, I offered a Hire Americans First amendment to require employers to seek American workers for their open positions before they try to bring in guest workers. This amendment was approved by the Senate in an overwhelming, bipartisan vote. The Senate also approved language I offered to protect American workers and address major abuses in the H-1B visa program.
There is no perfect solution to the problems we face as a result of our broken immigration system. Today, our borders are not secure, our workplace enforcement laws need reform, and our immigration policy fosters a shadow economy for millions of immigrants who simply want to demonstrate that they can be hardworking contributors to the greatness of our country. I will continue to work for a package of reforms that will protect American workers and that will be tough, enforceable, economically sensible, and morally defensible. I will keep your views in mind as the debate continues.
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator
(end of Durbin letter)

Like I said, at least I know where he stands. He played a bit fast and loose with some of the details, but that is understandable. The reform bill was changing moment-by-moment and I’m sure any statement he made was correct at one point or another. For example, he stated that illegals would have to pay “all back taxes”. Most would agree that “all” was not in the final proposal.
And he talks about leaving the country to reapply. That wasn’t out there for long. Touchbacks were dismissed rather quickly in the debate.

Like Bush, he is in denial about the bill being amnesty. He never really explains why the plan doesn’t amount to amnesty, unless you parse out the phrase “automatic citizenship”.

Durbin appears to be playing to his union supporters when he talks about Hire Americans First, but loopholes abound when people want foreign workers over Americans. IT professionals are hit hard by foreign competition, but at the end of the day people don’t need to move, only electrons. Whether the Indian programmer lives in Calcutta or Chicago, the impact is the same on American IT folks out of work.

Like the rest of them, he takes no blame and offers no apology for the inaction of the past. It is like they are talking about other people when they criticize those who didn’t deal with this before.

Well, get used to Durbin. The GOP in Illinois is in total disarray so it looks like Dick has a job for at least one more term...unless he has a layover in Minneapolis. (No, I’m not implying that Durbin is gay.)

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