Immigration Reform 2013: The Piecemeal Approach to An Impotent Bill

Tuesday, Senate officials overwhelmingly voted in favor of beginning work on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. But before we could get fuzzy, warm feelings about bipartisan efforts to fix America’s broken immigration system, the amendment process had already started its long trudge toward a watered-down and costly end plan.

Many Republicans have already declared that expanded and enhanced border security should be the cornerstone to any bill passing through the Senate. Solidifying this, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) proposed an amendment Wednesday that would make a path to citizenship contingent on securing the America’s borders. This amendment requires “100% situational awareness” along the America’s border with Mexico and a 90% capture rate for undocumented, border crossers.

But these figures can get a bit fuzzy when attempting to implement them. The only way the Department of Homeland Security can determine if they miss any illegal, border crossers is by evidence like foot prints or if they see people cross and are unable to catch them. This thin source of evidence is tricky especially if officials are trying to have that quoted “100% situational awareness.” How do border patrolmen know what they missed?

Ultimately, this could ensure that none of the estimated 11.2 million undocumented workers already living in America who would apply for permanent legal status would be able to receive it until our government is satisfied that it has achieved its arbitrary goals.

Making the process even more difficult, several other senators have proposed amendments that could hinder the bills ability to pass in both houses. For instance, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is using the immigration debate as an avenue to reignite talks on gun control. He has several amendments in the works that would propose new restrictions on gun purchases and transfers — one of which would account for American visitors and undocumented immigrants.

Other senators like Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have proposed that undocumented workers will need to pay back taxes on the wages they earned while working in the U.S. illegally. However, these migrant workers will have a hard time calculating and having employers (who hired them illegally, mind you) approve all the wages paid to them under-the-table.

Critics can agree with the notion but see obvious problems with this requirement. Sen. Lindsey Graham, for one, has told Reuters, "I want anybody that owes back taxes to pay them. But when you are talking about a system where a lot of people got paid under the table with cash, it could be problematic.” In the end, it could cost more to enforce such a law than it would generate in tax revenue.

Ultimately, all these side issues just redirect immigration reform away from the real issue of bringing millions who live on the fringe of American society into the fold and finding a better legal system for future immigrants. And, what we’ll most likely get in the end will be a rather watered-down version of the bill’s original purpose that will end up costing taxpayers billions.