The latest proposal for immigration legislation stresses border security. As an indicator in how far the immigration debate has moved, it is New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer who is one of the sponsors of this latest proposal. It calls for more federal agents and other enforcement at the border with benchmarks before illegal residents can become American citizens.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, Senate Majority Leader, Senator Schumer of New York, and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, all Democrats, are sponsoring the legislation. The benchmarks they proposed are: a) more ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) inspectors at work sites; b) more ICE officers assigned to investigate fraudulent documents and better means to spot fake documents; c) more personnel assigned to find contraband at ports; d) additional resources to prosecute drug and human smugglers, for illegal border crossings, and deportations.
The legislation does not specify the number of agents to be added or the exact increase in resources. It would create a two-tier system for granting citizenship to those here illegally, but before the benchmarks are met, the Department of Homeland Security could begin registering and screening illegal immigrants and considering them for an interim legal status. These people could begin to apply for legal permanent residence, eight years after backlogs of visas have been cleared for those who have come to the U.S.
The State of Arizona’s new immigration law has prompted new demands that Congress pass a comprehensive immigration bill. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that the drug violence along the Mexico-American border is evidence that the border is not secure. He said there would be no comprehensive immigration bill this year.
Democrats have been unable so far to lasso a second Republican, in addition to Graham, to join writing a bi-partisan immigration bill. The Democrat’s proposal floated yesterday appears to be an attempt to invite more Republicans to join them.