Opinion
              In this Wednesday, June 12, 2013 photo, brothers Jorge Tume, left, and Francis Tume are shown in Miami. Tume’s parents brought them to the U.S. from Peru on tourist visas when they were young and decided to stay, becoming unauthorized immigrants with no legal status. Now, one year after President Barack Obama announced an executive order allowing young people living in the U.S. illegally to stay and work, nearly 300,000 young adults previously living illegally in the United States have been granted permission to stay and work through the program, the most significant shift in immigration policy in recent decades. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Senate immigration bill full of bad, so-far-ignored provisions

Photo of Betsy McCaughey
Betsy McCaughey
Author, "Beating Obamacare"

Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is pushing for a final up-or-down vote on comprehensive immigration reform by the end of next week. “Comprehensive” is another word for unread. Lawmakers need to know what’s in this bill before they pass it. It’s full of questionable provisions that so far haven’t been subject to much debate.

One portion of the Senate bill would loosen the rules for seeking asylum. Sec. 3401 removes the one-year deadline for applying for asylum; Sec. 3504 adds another layer of appeals for aliens turned down; and Sec. 3502 allows the U.S. attorney general to provide government-funded legal counsel to aliens, something current law bars.

Americans have nothing to gain from loosening these rules. Ask the people of Boston. The Chechen parents of the Boston Marathon bombers were asylum seekers. Before them, in 1993, a Pakistani asylum seeker, Ramzi Yousef, bombed the World Trade Center. Another Pakistani asylum seeker, Mir Aimal Kasi, gunned down two CIA agents in Virginia. If anything, the U.S. should stop granting asylum to people from countries that spawn terrorists.

Sec. 2106 of the immigration bill outsources the job of guiding aliens through amnesty from the Department of Homeland Security to community organizations. These organizations will get federal grants to screen aliens for eligibility, assist them in documenting their residence, tax status, employment, and tax history, coordinate applications for family members, and apply for waivers where needed. Outsourcing these functions risks allowing them to be politicized. Community activists can say and do things government employees can’t. On a smaller scale, outsourcing has been going on since 2009. One past recipient is the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, which claims to “build political power through citizenship drives and voter registration.”

This outsourcing is reminiscent of how the Obama health law entrusts the important job of helping people enroll in health insurance to community organizations. Together, these outsourcing provisions make community activists the “go-to” people for accessing government help, like a fifth estate with power and government funding but few rules.

Sec. 2531 of the immigration bill sets up a nonprofit United States Citizenship Foundation to “engage in coordinated work” with the federal government. It will be run by 10 directors drawn from national community organizations, and will develop “citizenship preparation” programs to teach newcomers about American history and civics. That job is currently done by the federal Office of Immigration, which produces high-quality nonpartisan materials and is subject to public scrutiny. Outsourcing these functions would permit community activists to rewrite America’s past and principles with a partisan slant.

In a television ad, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) says that immigrants with provisional status will “have to be able to support themselves so they will never become a public charge.” But the bill waives that requirement for anyone who is attending high school, getting a high school equivalency degree, attending college, in job training, taking care of a child, over 60, or unemployed through no fault of their own. That covers everyone. To stay in the U.S. and qualify for a green card, you need to be working except if you’re not. See Sec. 245C(b).

Sec. 2524 establishes the Task Force on New Americans, which would be comprised of top executive branch personnel and charged with ensuring that federal programs “adequately address” the healthcare, education, and job-training needs of new immigrants and developing legislative proposals. Will the president push for additional legislation to increase benefits for immigrants?

Many of the bill’s provisions are labeled “emergency legislation,” to weasel out of Congress’s statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010, which says that if Congress creates mandatory spending in one area, it has to reduce spending somewhere else or raise taxes. Labeling immigration reform an “emergency” is cooking the books.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and author of “Beating Obamacare.”