I am uneasy that as the immigration bill wends it way through Congress, liberals have been willing to give away too much to get the path to citizenship. Many of the reports by pro-immigrant groups have been cheer-leading rather than more objective analysis. Last month, Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional law, an immigration supporter, issued a very tough assessment of the Senate immigration bill. His study is not of whether the bill will pass, but what would happen if the Senate immigration passed in its present form. Although his analysis is grim, I believe it is correct, so correct in fact that if the bill passes, and fails to stop undocumented immigration, his report will have been prescient in predicting the reasons for its failure.
Schey's analysis, well worth reading its entirety, draws the bottom line conclusions that he believes that a large percentage of the intended beneficiaries will not be able to qualify to legalize their status under the current Senate bill. On page 2, he writes, "The proposed program for the 9 million undocumented immigrants is so complex, costly, drawn out over time, and burdened with obstacles that its implementation likely legalize no more than half of the remaining 9 million undocumented immigrants now residing in the U.S." Schey lists 9 different reasons for why he has such a dismal view of the law, but several of his points are worth highlighting.
Requirement of continuous employment (pg. 5) The Senate bill disqualifies immigrants from renewing their provisional status or adjusting to a Green Card if they have been out of work for more than 60 days. Schey notes that for low income immigrants, intermittent work histories are common. Moreover, in the weakened economy, it would not be surprising to find someone of any economic status who was not out of work for over 60 days in a ten or more years span of time.
Schey is right that this provision, in addition to being unrealistic in this economy for low wage earners, encourages immigrants to stay on at terrible jobs where there may be subject to "sexual harassment, discrimination, health and safety violations, and wage and hour violations for ten years or longer." (pg. 7) It was the most troublesome aspect of his report.
Duration of status requirements and "triggers" (pg. 8-9)
One controversial aspect of the bill is that the benefits portions of the bill do not begin until enforcement guidelines are met first; in other words no one may apply for provisional status on the way to legalization until the border is sufficiently secure. Schey notes that "the proposed triggers may not be achieved in "10 years, 20 years, or perhaps ever." (pg. 9)
He cites immigration specialist, Professor Wayne Cornelius of UCSD, who says that the requirement that the southern border be 90 percent secured before the benefits can be dispensed in practical terms may render moot any path to citizenship. I agree with Cornelius who says DHS lacks "the data, or a defensible methodology for collecting it, to measure border enforcement efficacy in the way required by the legislation." (FN 23 pg. 9) Schey adds that without objective metrics for measuring a secure border, that determination will be purely political and will be decided by who is in the White House, who controls Congress, and what the state of the economy and relations with Mexico is at the time.
On balance, Schey's conclusion is that if the Senate immigration bill is passed in its present form, a large percentage, perhaps up to 50 percent of the intended beneficiaries of a path to citizenship would not qualify. If he is right, and I believe he is, then one has to wonder what is the intent of this bill. It could be that these were careless drafting errors and oversights that can be fixed by amendments, or it could be that the intention is not to actually to have the majority of the 9 -11 million undocumented be able to qualify for legalization.
One hopes it is the former and not the latter. One hopes that this is a not a matter of both parties engaging in political theater and putting forward a bill in order to claim action on comprehensive immigration reform while knowing full well that many immigratns will not qualify for the relief--even as the tech sector and defense contractors get their giveaways. Either way, Schey's report, although hard to read, deserves wide discussion and distribution.