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THE MOST IMPORTANT DEBATE OF THE YEAR

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By Michelle Malkin  •  May 25, 2006 11:32 AM

An extraordinary exchange just took place on the Senate floor over the last 40 minutes. It’s the most important debate of the year, in my opinion.

The questions are these: Who do we let into this country and how many?

On one side of the debate: Democrat Sen. Jeff Bingaman of N.M. and Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

On the other side, the blubbering open-borders duo of GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democrat Sen. Teddy Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Bingaman is offering an amendment to cap the number of visas for legal permanent residents at 650,000. The current Senate immigration bill essentially obliterates the current employer-based green card cap of 140,000. Spouses and children currently count against that cap. Under the Senate bill, that would no longer be true. There would be, in effect, no limits. Bingaman’s cap would be four times the current rate–yet both McCain and Kennedy are responding hysterically as if Bingaman has proposed some human rights crackdown on the world.

When Bingaman pointed out the need for prudence in opening the floodgates to unlimited numbers of low-skilled workers, both McCain and Kennedy pulled the race card. McCain’s immediate response was to sputter that the “Chamber of Commerce, unions, and Hispanic groups” oppose the caps! McCain called it un-American to be selective about whom we let into this country. Yeah, he did.

When McCain accused Bingaman of “discriminating against” poor immigrants, Bingaman pointed out that the McCain-Kennedy bill itself had a 290,000 cap. No response from the Open-Borders Tag Team.

You’ve got to watch the exchange for yourselves. We’ll have video at Hot Air shortly. (1213pm EDT: Video of first exchange between McCain and Bingaman is up here.) In the meantime, re-read Sen. Sessions’ analysis:

“As we begin debate today on the floor, my goal is to get these numbers before my colleagues so that they can appreciate just how breath-takingly unsatisfactory this 614-page Senate bill is,” Sessions said. “We know that this country is going to treat the illegal alien population fairly. However, if the Senate wants to be successful in passing immigration reform, it should produce a bill that secures the borders and the workplace and establishes a commonsense, carefully thought out, legally enforceable policy for legal immigration in the future. For our immigration system to work, the Senate bill must guarantee that today’s facade of enforcement and illegal immigration flows won’t exist in the future.”

If the current legal immigration level (950,000 a year for 20 years or 18.9 million over 20 years) is excluded from the total, according to Sessions, the Senate bill could be described as increasing legal immigration by 59 million to 198.2 million over 20 years.

“These are actually very conservative estimates,” Sessions said. “For example, for the low end, we assumed the caps would never escalate, and we only added an average of 1.2 immediate family members coming in with each alien worker. Additionally, our numerical analysis did not add in estimates of future illegal immigration flows, or include any estimates for chain-migration – the parents, brothers and sisters that new citizens can bring in on a permanent basis.”

Chain-migration occurs when an immigrant becomes a citizen. Citizens have a legal

right to bring in family members other than spouses and children. They can bring in their parents, their adult siblings and the spouses and children of their adult siblings.

“You can see how the potential exponential growth impact of the Senate legislation will cause consternation on the part of Congress and the American people ,” Sessions said.

The Senate bill would increase permanent future immigration into the United States in several ways.

LOW SKILLED PERMANENT IMMIGRATION:

H-2C Workers: By creating a new (H-2C) visa category for “temporary guest workers” (low skilled workers) with an annual “cap” of 325,000 that increases up to 20 percent each year the cap is met, the bill allows at least 6.5 million, and up to 60.7 million new guest workers to come to the United States over the next 20 years. There is nothing “temporary” about these workers. Employers may file a green card application on their behalf as soon as they arrive in the United States, or the worker may self-petition for a green card after four years of work.

H-4 Family Members of H-2C Workers: By creating a new visa category (H-4) for the immediate family members of the future low-skilled workers (H-2C), and allowing them to also receive green cards, the bill would allow at least 7.8 million, and up to 72.8 million immediate family members of low-skilled workers to come to the United States over the next 20 years.

HIGH SKILLED PERMANENT IMMIGRATION:

H-1B: The bill would essentially open the borders to high-skilled workers, as well as low-skilled workers. By increasing the annual cap of 65,000 to 115,000, automatically increasing the new cap by 20 percent each year the cap is hit, and creating a new exemption to new cap for anyone who has an “advanced degree in science, technology, engineering, or math” from any foreign university, the number of H-1B workers coming into the United States would undoubtedly escalate. The 20-year impact of this escalation could be anywhere from 1 million to 20.1 million. H-1B workers are eligible for green cards and would be allowed to stay and work in the United States for as long as it takes to process the green card application.

STEEP INCREASES TO ANNUAL GREEN CARD LIMITS:

Family Based Green Cards: The bill would increase the annual cap on family based green cards available to non-immediate family members (adult sons and daughters, adults siblings, and the spouses and children of adult siblings) by more than 100 percent, upping the current cap of 226,000 to 480,000 a year. Immediate family members are already able to immigrate without regard to the family based green card caps. The 20-year impact of this change would be an increase of 5.1 million non-immediate family member green cards.

Employment Based Green Cards The bill would increase the annual cap on employment-based green cards by more than 500 percent, upping the current cap of 140,000 to 450,000 until 2016 and to 290,000 thereafter and exempting all immediate family members that currently count against the cap today (spouses, children and parents) from the newly escalated cap. The new exemption would result in an average of 540,000 family members receiving green cards each year of the first 10 years, and an average of 348,000 family members receiving green cards each year of the second 10 years. The 20-year impact of this change would be an increase of 13.5 million employment-based green cards, for a total of 16.3 million employment-based green cards issued over the course of the next 20 years.

The Immigration Blog is tracking developments throughout the day.

Jim DeMint’s top ten reasons to oppose the Senate amnesty bill:

Top Ten Reasons to Vote NO on Immigration Compromise

1. Rewards Illegal Behavior with Clear Path to Citizenship and Voting Rights – Amnesty

· As noted by former Attorney General Ed Meese in the New York Times on May 24, 2006: “Like the amnesty bill of 1986, the current Senate proposal would place those who have resided illegally in the United States on a path to citizenship, provided they meet a similar set of conditions and pay a fine and back taxes. The illegal immigrant does not go to the back of the line but gets immediate legalized status, while law-abiding applicants wait in their home countries for years to even get here. And that’s the line that counts. In the end, slight differences in process do not change the overriding fact that the 1986 law and today’s bill are both amnesties.”

2. Creates Temporary Worker Program That is Neither Temporary Nor Work-Based

· The bill’s guest worker program would allow millions of illegal immigrants to qualify for permanent green cards within four years. Additionally, the Senate approved Senator Kennedy’s amendment that each year would allow up to 200,000 immigrants who cross the border illegally and work just 6 days a year (including self employment) to qualify for a permanent green card.

3. Unprecedented Wave of Immigrants – 66 Million Over 20 Years

· This bill is estimated to skyrocket the number of immigrants, from its current level of 19 million over the next 20 years, to an unprecedented number. Heritage Foundation: “…[O]ur estimate of the number of legal immigrants who would enter the country or would gain legal status under S. 2611 … [would be] 66 million over the next 20 years.”

4. Insufficient Border Security

· The Senate rejected an amendment by Senator Isakson that would have prohibited the implementation of any guest worker program that grants legal status to those who have entered the country illegally until the Secretary of Homeland Security has certified to the President and to the Congress that the border security provisions in the immigration legislation are fully funded and operational.

· While the Senate adopted Senator Sessions’ amendment to increase “real fencing” by 370 miles and add 500 miles of vehicle barriers, the House passed a bill requiring at least 700 miles of “real fencing”, a more likely needed amount to secure the 2,000 mile long border.

5. Terrorist Loophole Disarms Law Enforcement

· Heritage Foundation reported May 24, 2006: “The Senate’s immigration reform proposal … would restrict local police to arresting aliens for criminal violations of immigration law only, not civil violations. The results would be disastrous. All of the hijackers on (9-11) who committed immigration violations committed civil violations. Under the bill, police officers would have no power to arrest such terrorists.”

6. Social Security Benefits, Tax Credits for Illegal Work

· The Senate rejected Senator Ensign’s amendment that would have prevented Social Security benefits from being awarded to immigrants for time that they worked illegally in the United States. If the immigration compromise bill before the Senate were enacted into law, an estimated 12 million illegal workers would be able to use their past illegal work to qualify for Social Security benefits.

· Provisions in S. 2611 would require newly legalized immigrants to file tax returns for work they performed while in the U.S. illegally. And while some would be required to pay back taxes, many others could qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which has a maximum payout of $4,400 per year.

7. Costs Over $50 Billion A Year to Federal Government; States Foot The Bill for Immigrant Health Care

· Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation described the bill as a “fiscal catastrophe,” and has said the measure would prove to be the largest expansion of government welfare in 35 years. According to Rector, the bill would increase long-term federal spending by at least $50 billion a year.

· The Senate bill does not reimburse state and local governments for health care and education costs related to the millions of undocumented immigrants. While the underlying bill creates a state impact assistance account for future temporary workers, it is an unfunded account.

8. Hurts Small Business

· The Senate approved an amendment by Senator Obama extending Davis-Bacon “prevailing wage” provisions for guest workers, but not American citizens, in all occupations covered by Davis-Bacon (currently limited to federally paid work). Small businesses would be forced to pay inflated wages to guest workers above the pay American citizens receive for performing the same work.

9. Gives Some Immigrant Workers Greater Job Protection Than American Workers

· As reported by Robert Novak of Chicago Sun Times on May 24, 2006: “The bill supposedly would protect American workers by ensuring that new immigrants would not take away jobs. However, the bill’s definition of ‘United States worker’ includes temporary foreign guest workers, so the protection is meaningless… Foreign guest farm workers, admitted under the bill, cannot be ‘terminated from employment by any employer … except for just cause.’ In contrast, American ag workers can be fired for any reason.”

10. Weak Assimilation/English Requirements

· The Senate approved Senator Inhofe’s amendment to make English the national language and require those seeking citizenship to demonstrate English proficiency and understanding of U.S. History. However, a far weaker amendment by Senator Salazar gutted the Inhofe amendment, leaving it in doubt, and also giving immigrants the right to demand the federal government communicate with them in any language they choose.

Charles Krauthammer:

There are tens of millions of people who want to leave their homes and come to America. We essentially have an NFL draft in which the United States has the first, oh, million or so draft picks. Rather than exercising those picks, i.e., choosing by whatever criteria we want — such as education, enterprise, technical skills and creativity — we admit the tiniest fraction of the best and brightest and permit millions of the unskilled to pour in instead.

Human Events: No Conservative Could Vote for Senate Immigration Bill.

Update: The Bingaman amendment passed. Allah reports

Despite McCain’s best efforts, Bingaman pushed the cap through. Final tally: 51-47. Twenty-two Republicans voted no — but nineteen Democrats and independents, thankfully, voted yes…

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Categories: Immigration