Last week, I reported the following:
One of the lingering questions I’ve harbored about the forthcoming “Gang of Eight” immigration bargain (the Tuesday roll-out of which was appropriately postponed due to the events in Boston) is how long the “open enrollment” period for amnesty would be. Surely the bill includes a finite time box, rather than unleashing an ongoing, open-ended new policy, right? Right. “There’s a cut-off after one year,” a GOP source familiar with the plan tells me. The federal government would begin accepting applications for provisional legal status “after the first two security triggers are met, and [the government] begins the application process.”
But Byron York’s review of the legislative language reveals that the 365-day “open enrollment” period isn’t quite as airtight as it may seem:
The bill’s supporters point out that the Gang of Eight would limit the period of time in which illegal immigrants can apply for a blue card. That’s true; the bill specifies that applications have to be filed in the year after the last of the rules enforcing the new immigration law have gone into effect. But the bill also gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretion to extend that period by another year and a half if she or he determines that “additional time is required” for the applications. The extension can also be granted for any other “good cause.”
Given the nation’s ongoing Obamacare “train wreck” experience and Napolitano’s political leanings, does a single person doubt that she’d exercise her prerogative and conclude that “additional time is required” to process applications, if given the chance? Hell, she might even be right on the merits. Remember, this bill would require the federal government to revamp its entry/exit program (even though this has been mandated and ignored for years), administer and enforce E-Verify from coast-to-coast, and consider millions upon millions of applications for legal residency from illegal immigrants. That last bit alone would require untold manpower and resources. Per York’s reporting, numerous loopholes exist in the law, including one that would allow illegal immigrants who’ve worked extensively in the agricultural industry to be placed on a faster track to citizenship. Also, the “DREAM kids” exception has no age cap, so anyone who was (or who claims to have been) brought here as a child…ever…would be eligible for that expedited path. Toss in the criminal background screening process, plus the effort it would take to verify adherence to the bill’s cut-off date, and you’re staring at a dizzying “reform” maze that will be extraordinarily difficult to administer properly. Raise your hand if you believe all of this can be accomplished within one year. Anyone? Another question, independent of time frame considerations: Who is going to do all of this stuff? The task of determining who qualifies for what exemption/status barely sounds workable in and of itself. As for the December 31, 2011 cut-off, I asked Rubio about how that provision would be enforced:
BENSON: Alright Senator, last question. I know you’ve got to run. These are just sort of technical questions. Part of it is, there’s a cut-off. People who’ve gotten into the country illegally after December 31, 2011 are not eligible for this provisional status. And then they also have to pay some back taxes — the people who are eligible. How does the government determine when someone got here, and what taxes they owe, if they’ve been doing it in the shadows and illegally?
RUBIO: Okay, first of all, the burden to prove they’ve been here is on them. So if they can’t prove it, they can’t stay, and it’s not our fault. Second, obviously there are multiple factors that you use — bank statements, utilities, school records, medical records — these folks that are here illegally do leave a paper trail, even though we don’t do anything about it. So again, the burden is on them to prove. And I would just say, the less documentation they have, the less likely they’re telling the truth about it, and I think that’s important. And let me just tell you why it’s important to have a cut-off date in the past. That’s because otherwise, everyone will claim — I mean, people will rush the border and try to beat the deadlines, so I think that’s an important provision in the bill, and again if there’s a way to improve it, we should look at that. But it’s important that we do have a date in the past that’s a cut-off.
We had limited time, so I was unable to follow-up, but Rubio’s response raises more questions: How much documentation is sufficient to qualify as “proof”? One bank statement or utility bill? Two? Will there be a uniform standard, or will officials make judgments on an ad hoc basis? Also, wouldn’t this system invite widespread fraud? One can easily picture a black market for relatively easily-forged documents cropping up overnight. And might this whole process afford actual dangerous criminals (a small fraction of illegal immigrants) the irresistible opportunity to start fresh with a brand new, “clean” identity? Look, I continue to applaud guys like Rubio for sticking their necks out and trying to tackle a very complex problem. But any genuine solution has to actually, you know, work in the real world. Otherwise, we’ll extend an amnesty to millions, then circle back to the exact same dilemma in a decade or two. During our chat, Rubio frequently underscored his openness to amendments and improvements to the bill, which is laudable. From where I sit, this thing cries out for quite a few Changes We Can Believe In.