Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions voiced concerns over the bipartisan proposal for immigration reform introduced on Monday by eight senators, saying the plan will substantially increase the already sky-high national debt and criticizing the federal government for inadequately enforcing existing immigration laws.
“No one should expect the members of the Senate are just going to rubber stamp what a group who met decided,” Sessions said on the Senate floor.
While immigration system needs to be reformed, Sessions said, the country has been through this dance before.
The Alabama senator recalled the failed promise of enforcement following immigration reform in 1986, as well as the aborted attempts at immigration reform in 2006 and 2007.
The latter efforts, Sessions said, didn’t succeed “because it did not do what they said it would do. It did not end the illegality. It did not set forth a proper principle of immigration for America, [and] it did not sufficiently alter the nature of our immigration system to advance the national interest of the United States.”
Sessions suggested that the U.S. should adopt some Canadian immigration policies, including the country’s preference for potential immigrants that speak its native language or possess advanced education and skills. The U.S. should also seek out younger people who will pay more into the system over their lifetimes, and investors who will help grow the economy, Sessions said.
“It should be a major part of any immigration reform that focuses on trying to get the people who will be most successful in America — the ones we know are going to be able to do better here. It should not admit people who are likely to be a public charge. However, that is already the public law. You are not supposed to be admitted to America if you are likely to be a charge on the public — that is, you are going to need government aid to take care of yourself.”
But as the senator pointed out and The Daily Caller has previously reported, in 2011 just .068 percent of visa applicants were found to be ineligible on the basis of becoming a public charge. (RELATED: Is the U.S. importing welfare cases?)
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, 36 percent of immigrant-headed households were on at least one welfare program, compared to 23 percent of native-born household heads in 2010.
“There may be a law against it, but it is not being enforced,” Sessions said. “We need to know that it is going to be enforced in the future.”
Sessions — along with Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch, Pat Roberts and Chuck Grassley — has sent three oversight requests, starting in the summer of 2012, to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, seeking answers regarding lax enforcement and policy standards when it comes to sussing out immigrants who are likely to become reliant on welfare.
The Department of Homeland Security has not responded to any of those letters.
“Amnesty will not help balance our budget. In fact, a large-scale amnesty is likely to add trillions of dollars to the debt over time, accelerate Medicare’s and Social Security’s slide into insolvency, and put enormous strain on our public assistance programs,” Sessions added in a statement distributed to the media shortly after he spoke on the floor. “We know already that the administration refuses to enforce existing law restricting immigrant welfare use, and in fact promotes expanded welfare use to immigrants—including food stamps, public housing, and Medicaid.”
As TheDC revealed, DHS advertises government assistance to immigrants through a website, WelcometoUSA.gov, and hands out welcome manuals to new immigrants advertising state aid.
TheDC also has reported that the Department of Agriculture has a partnership with the Mexican government aimed at nutrition-assistance outreach to Mexican immigrants. (RELATED: USDA teams up with Mexico to boost food-stamp rolls)
Sessions added that Obama has “particularly acted to undermine the ability of the law enforcement community from actually enforcing existing laws,” recalling that the ICE union has sued the department over its alleged failure to do its job.
“We would be in a much better position to achieve immigration reform if the Obama Administration had spent that last four years enforcing federal law rather than dismantling it,” Sessions continued in the statement.
Sessions concluded by comparing the current labor participation rate (63.6 percent) and unemployment rate (7.9 percent) with those when the 2007 immigration reform attempt failed (66 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively).
“So I do think we need to ask serious questions about any proposal, and maybe we can work forward with some legislation that will serve the national interest,” he said.