Top 10 Concerns with the Senate Immigration Bill

The Senate immigration bill is fundamentally flawed and unworkable – that’s why I am opposed to this massive 1,000 page bill.  As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I have many concerns about this bill, but here are the top 10 takeaways from the Senate bill:

#1: Unconstitutional:  The Senate immigration bill is a revenue-raising bill, which makes it unconstitutional.  Specifically, the bill contains a wide range of effects on federal revenues, including changes in collections of income and payroll taxes, certain visa fees that are classified as revenues, and various fines and penalties.  Language in the U.S. Constitution requires any bill that raises revenue, also known as a tax, must originate in the House of Representatives, not the Senate.

#2: Legalization Before Border Security: Under the Senate immigration bill, no border security plan has to be implemented before unlawful immigrants receive a legal status and there are no assurances that the border has to be secure.  Specifically, six months from the Senate bill’s enactment, the Secretary of Homeland Security must submit a border security plan.  Once this plan is submitted—meaning that the border does not have to be secure—unlawful immigrants can then apply for legal status, which is called “registered provisional status (RPI).”  Adjustment from RPI status to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status can begin when the border security plan is deployed, the border fence and electronic verification system have been implemented, the exit system is being used, and roughly 38,400 Border Patrol agents have been deployed on the Southwest border.  However, the Secretary of Homeland Security can ignore these requirements after ten years of litigation or a Supreme Court ruling has prevented these triggers from being implemented.

#3: Lack of Border Security:  While the Senate bill throws billions of dollars at the border, there is no mechanism in the bill to ensure it actually secures our porous borders.  Under the Schumer-Hoeven-Corker Amendment so-called “border surge” amendment, approximately 38,400 Border Patrol agents will be deployed, maintained, and stationed along the Southwest border.  However, the Border Patrol agents do not have to be deployed before 2021, which is well after unlawful immigrants receive legal status.  Under the provision, DHS’s goal in allocating the additional Border Patrol agents to airports shall be to reduce wait times – not to enforce immigration law, apprehend illegal immigrants, seize illegal contraband, or improve national security. This is hardly a border surge.

#4: Interior Enforcement is Virtually Nonexistent:  Under the Senate immigration bill, the interior enforcement of our immigration laws is completely gutted.  Specifically –

  • President Still Has On/Off Switch: The Senate bill does not take away the immigration enforcement “on/off switch” from the President. The House enforcement bill (SAFE Act) does this by granting states the authority to enforce the laws in the future.
  • Enforcement Free Zones: The bill allows the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to designate enforcement free areas where no immigration activity can take place.
  • Halts Immigration Enforcement: Creates an immigration enforcement holiday where no enforcement actions will occur for two and half years.
  • Countless Waivers:  Under the Senate bill, wherever enforcement is mentioned, there is a waiver authority delegated to the Secretary of DHS, repeating many of the same problems we have today with the lack of immigration enforcement.

#5: Won’t End Illegal Immigration:  Despite all the money being spent in the bill that is supposed to secure our nation’s borders, the Congressional Budget Office has said that the Senate immigration bill will only reduce illegal immigration by one-third to one-half.  Any immigration reform bill must ensure that we don’t have another illegal immigration problem down the road.

#6: Special Pathway to Citizenship:  The Senate bill creates an entirely new, currently nonexistent path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  Also, the Senate bill decreases the time required for most immigrants to apply for naturalization from five to three years.

#7: Endangers Our Communities: Under the Senate immigration bill, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is provided with broad authority to waive criminal conduct, including gang affiliations, felony arrests, and multiple misdemeanor convictions.  The bill allows the Secretary to waive background checks, does not require dangerous criminal aliens to be detained, and makes it easier for persecutors and human rights abusers to obtain immigration benefits.  The bill also allows criminal immigrants to continue to commit and be convicted of criminal offenses after receiving provisional legal status, as long as the individual’s convictions remain below the eligibility threshold.  In addition, the bill allows those with multiple convictions to enter, remain, and not be subject to detention in the U.S.

#8: Releases Criminals Back onto the Streets:  Current law requires that certain criminal immigrants who are in the process of being deported to be detained in order to protect the American people. However, the Senate bill undermines this commonsense requirement and instead allows dangerous criminals to be released back onto our streets, only to be monitored by advocacy organizations.

#9: Unworkable Ag Guestworker Program: The Senate immigration bill contains an unworkable agricultural guestworker program that would subject farmers to unnecessary regulations and excessive litigation.

#10:  Contains Slush Fund for Liberal Activist Groups:  Under the Senate bill, new grant programs are created that could provide $150 million dollars to liberal activist groups like La Raza, Casa de Maryland, and the American Lawyers Association.  These taxpayer-funded grants are provided to organizations – without any audit or oversight provisions – in order to promote the new special pathway to citizenship though public information campaigns, to help unlawful immigrants apply for new immigration benefits, and provide any other assistance considered useful to unlawful immigrants in the process.

Unlike the Senate, the House is taking a step-by-step approach to immigration reform, thoroughly and methodically reviewing each component in detail so that we stop mass illegal immigration in the future and ensure our immigration laws are enforced.  The House Judiciary Committee, which I chair, has approved four immigration bills that strengthen the enforcement of our immigration laws and improve our legal immigration programs.  More work has yet to be done but we are taking care to ensure we avoid the mistakes of the past that have contributed to our broken immigration system.