Immigration Barely a Blurb in House GOP Leadership's 'Pledge to America'

Oct 01, 2010, 11:25 ET from FAIR

Comprehensive Enforcement Must Be Part of Goal to Stimulate Economy

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- House Republican leaders have introduced their "Pledge to America," which like the GOP's 1994 "Contract with America," outlines their plan for the country if given the opportunity to set the legislative agenda.  House GOP leaders contend that their document offers solutions for America's struggling economy and "reflects the priorities of the American people," which they say are often ignored by politicians in Washington.

Yet the "Pledge to America" fails to adequately address our immigration crisis, arguably a hot button topic and a key expectation by the American public.  Immigration receives just a scant mention buried deep toward the end of the document.  GOP House leaders suggest a three-pronged approach which includes establishing operational control of U.S. borders, working with state and local officials to enforce immigration laws, and strengthening visa security.

While these points are critical, and if implemented, would represent a major step forward from the current administration's non-enforcement policies, the proposal is missing vital ingredients for the creation of a comprehensive American immigration enforcement policy.  

"The 'Pledge to America' major themes are economic growth and jobs creation. If House Republican leadership is serious about that, then it cannot ignore the impact millions of illegal aliens have on jobs and wages or ignore the need to dry up the jobs magnet with more vigorous enforcement," said Dan Stein, President of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).  "Worksite enforcement, is itself, economic stimulus and would protect American workers, raise wages and complement the goals outlined in the 'Pledge."

A serious and effective immigration plan must include:

Opposition to amnesty. The "Pledge to America" does not place House Republican leaders on record as opposing any and all forms of amnesty for illegal aliens. While many prominent congressional Republicans have stood firmly against amnesty – even when it was being promoted by the Bush administration – the Pledge avoids a definitive repudiation of amnesty for illegal aliens.

Interior and worksite enforcement. Illegal immigration is not merely a border issue. Securing our nation's borders is essential, but is insufficient to address the enormous problem of illegal immigration. Any workable immigration enforcement plan must include vigorous efforts in the interior of the country with special focus on cracking down on employers who hire illegal aliens and removing illegal workers from the country. The "Pledge to America" makes no mention of serious worksite enforcement.

GOP House leaders must demonstrate that they are willing to side with American workers and taxpayers over special interests.

Mandatory and universal use of E-Verify. The E-Verify program allows employers to verify the work authorization of job applicants. The system is highly effective, easy and free to use, and popular with businesses that genuinely want to avoid hiring illegal aliens.  It is the best tool available to ensure that American workers do not lose jobs to illegal aliens and has been championed by House Republicans. The "Pledge to America" avoids any mention of E-Verify, much less includes a call to make it a mandatory part of the hiring process.

Strengthening law enforcement cooperation with local police. The 287 (g) is a federal/local law enforcement cooperation agreement that enlists the aid of state and local police in immigration enforcement. The program has been used effectively by local police and proved to be a valuable aid to help federal authorities identify and remove illegal aliens. Not surprisingly, the Obama administration has severely constrained use of the program and dictated terms of participation to local authorities. The "Pledge to America" makes no mention of this force multiplier, or call for its restoration as a truly cooperative federal/local program.

Ending Sanctuary Policies.  The Pledge does not address sanctuary policies that impede enforcement of immigration laws. Federal law expressly prohibits sanctuary policies. Nevertheless, while the Obama administration has zealously attacked Arizona for attempting to enforce immigration laws, they refuse to go after localities that deliberately impede immigration enforcement. The Pledge should call for an end to sanctuary policies or cal for federal sanctions against state and local governments that implement them.

Reductions in guest worker visas. Regardless of labor and economic conditions, the United States admits hundreds of thousands of foreign guest workers to fill jobs each year. In the best of times, the presence of so many guest workers lowers wages of American workers of all skill levels. Under present circumstances, the admission of large numbers of guest workers denies employment opportunities to American workers at a time when many are desperate.  The "Pledge to America" should include a pledge to ensure that American businesses fill vacancies with American workers.

Ending the Visa Waiver Program. The "Pledge to America" criticizes the lax visa issuance policies and failure to share vital information between government agencies that allowed the Christmas Bomber, Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, to board a flight to the United States. The Pledge, however, assiduously avoids calling for elimination of the business-backed Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP allows nationals of 27 nations to enter the United States without first obtaining a visa.

Promote the Public Interest. The "Pledge to America" cannot be considered a final blueprint for ending our immigration crisis because it lacks a defined public interest objective. The Pledge would leave in-tact a system that is universally acknowledged as a failure. Aside from a few, selective improvements in immigration law enforcement, the proposal includes no mention of imposing sensible limits on immigration; ending family chain migration; instituting merit-based admission policies; or assimilating millions of recently-settled immigrants into the economic and linguistic mainstream of America. These are all ideas that are strongly supported by the American public, and which have been promoted by influential House and Senate Republicans.

About FAIR

Founded in 1979, FAIR is the country's largest immigration reform group.  With over 250,000 members nationwide, FAIR fights for immigration policies that serve national interests, not special interests.  FAIR believes that immigration reform must enhance national security, improve the economy, protect jobs, preserve our environment, and establish a rule of law that is recognized and enforced.