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By Ric Llewellyn
We have an immigration reform bill in the Senate. It's hard to know where to start with all the irony, confusion and futility embodied in Senate Bill 744.
In the past, the special interests drove the "comprehensive" approach. Now moderate mainstreamers are jumping on board. How did that happen?
Well, people get beat up for being racist or not having human compassion. Of course, that is nonsense. But we grow tired of being belittled for asking questions or demanding national loyalty from our representatives.
Regardless of what anyone HOPES to do by enacting SB 744, I am certain this reform will be a huge disappointment if it is enacted.
First, why is the so-called reform more than twice as long as the original law? Doesn't that make you wonder just how efficiently "reform" has been crafted?
The current immigration law is composed of 16 multi-section chapters and runs more than 400 pages. One of the complaints is that it is too long and complicated. Certainly we could simplify it in our reform.
Instead SB 744 is more than 1,000 pages of new and amended statutory requirements describing border security and immigration procedures. That's ironic.
Next, I am confused by the lengthy treatment of border security. Hasn't that been the federal government's responsibility since the last time we had immigration reform? Hasn't it always been their responsibility?
Isn't border security and immigration control the issue that some states had to take upon themselves? The federal government has neglected its duty, yet we are supposed to be satisfied with ANOTHER promise to secure the southern border?
Finally, after reviewing the existing immigration code and SB 744, I was struck by the futility of the approach our representatives continue to embrace. The same convoluted system of classes of immigrants, exemptions, special provisions and even more bureaucracy stands as an impediment to efficient, effective immigration control.
Instead of clarifying and simplifying the process, the Senate has brought a solution to the table that will STILL require the legal expertise of immigration lawyers to navigate. SB 744 is more a reprise than a reform.
The same complaints of time delays and confusing red tape will no doubt cling to the "new and improved" immigration code. Those delays and excessive bureaucracy will drive people away from compliance.
SB 744 is no solution for citizens or immigrants.
We can't seem to efficiently process a half million immigrants a year. Yet we propose a "path to citizenship" for millions and millions of undocumented immigrants that uses the same process!
Those who wish to utilize the "reformed" procedure essentially go through the old procedure. They just get to skip the part about obtaining a visa.
A candidate for temporary legal status must prove his or her eligibility. Of course, there are pages of conditions that must be met. Then there is the government review.
I suppose that eventually the review will be complete and the person will become a lawful temporary resident. Eventually.
Next step. Apply for permanent legal status. Go through government review. Again. Eventually the review will be complete. Now the person is a lawful permanent resident.
And the politicians have proposed that we do that millions and millions of times. Brilliant!
I can't be the first person to ask this question. What about the people who do not want to use the "new and improved" system to become legal temporary residents?
How many millions of them are there? And what shall we do about them? Will we compel them to become legal temporary residents? Will we deport them? Perhaps we will just ignore them.
I expect there will be a tremendous push to educate people about the many benefits of going through the process. Yet the new process is so similar to the existing one that I wonder why the urgent clamoring to "fix" it?
What is it we are fixing? To me it is unclear, but this is what our senators say. "All parts of this Act are premised on the right and need of the United States to achieve [the goals of integrating immigrants, promoting prosperity and ensuring national security], and to protect its borders and maintain its sovereignty." Whatever that means.
Read the Statement of Congressional Findings that prefaces SB 744. It is high-sounding rhetoric that is vulnerable to political relativism. If our representatives are so patriotic, why have they neglected our immigration system for so long?
More paper, more promises, more politics as usual. Senate Bill 744 is reform that needs reform. While we wait to see what the Senate does, I hope the House continues to ask for real reforms and the people demand responsible solutions.
-- Ric Llewellyn is one of two community columnists whose work appears here Saturdays. These are the opinions of Llewellyn, not necessarily The Californian. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week: Heather Ijames.