The Borderline Spectator

Senators in Charge of Asylum

They're still not reading their own immigration bill.

By 5.1.13

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Only the first 151 pages of the 844-page Senate immigration bill deal with border security and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. No matter where you stand on those hot button issues, you need to know what’s in the rest of the bill. This is the third article of a series exposing some of the shockers.

The bill could double legal immigration to the U.S. over the next decade. Immigration is the heart and soul of this nation. But can the nation handle doubling it so fast?

The bill also relaxes the rules for seeking asylum despite the tragic bombing in Boston and other terrorist attacks committed by asylum seekers.

Surprises like this are what you can expect from a comprehensive bill -- meaning hundreds of pages no one in Congress reads. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) bristles at the suggestion that the nation’s immigration system should be improved one piece at a time. “You can’t do individual bills,” he objected,” because the problem is people say ‘what about me?’” Spoken like a deal maker. Employers who want high-tech workers got a piece of the deal, so did families hoping to bring in loved ones, and politicians who want to be known as pro-immigrant.

But what about Joe Public, the average citizen? Congress ought to be asking what he gets.

Doubling legal immigration: Legal immigration to the U.S. is already at an all time high. In the 1970s, 3.2 million legal immigrants arrived; in the 1980s, 6.2 million; in the 1990s, 9.7 million; in the first decade of this century, 10.3 million. But if this bill passes, a ball park estimate will be 20 million over the next decade, according to Numbers USA, critics of the bill.

What will that mean for the school Joe Public's kids attend, or his tax bill? And will such a rapid increase allow newcomers to assimilate and find jobs?

Shockingly, the Gang of Eight -- four Republican and four Democratic U.S. senators -- say they don’t know how much their bill will increase immigration. Proposing a law without knowing its impact is whacky. It’s amateur hour.

Senators in charge of asylum: The Gang of Eight’s approach to amnesty is even more whacky. Fifteen years ago, before the global terrorist threat was obvious, the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform declared that one of the nation’s top priorities was sheltering the persecuted. Perhaps it made sense then. But now Joe the Public has nothing to gain from amnesty programs and everything — including his safety -- to lose. Ask the people in Boston.

The Muslim parents (one of them apparently radicalized) of the Boston Marathon bombers came from Chechnya on tourist visas and sought asylum. Before them, in 1993 a Pakistani asylum seeker, Ramzi Yousef, bombed the World Trade Center. Another Pakistani asylum seeker, Mir Aimal Kansi, gunned down two CIA agents in Virginia.

The law currently says that any immigrant who enters the U.S. -- on a tourist visa, business visa, or illegally -- has one year to apply for asylum and show they are victims of persecution. In 2012, over 40,000 aliens secured asylum, largely from China, Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, India, and the former Soviet Union.

Despite asylum seekers committing terrorist acts, the proposed Senate bill loosens controls. Sec. 3401 removes the one year deadline for applying; Sec. 3504 adds another layer of appeals for aliens turned down; and Sec. 3502 allows the Attorney General to provide government-funded counsel to aliens. Current law bars that.

These provisions should be stripped from the Senate immigration bill. Instead it should suspend asylum from areas of the world that spawn terrorists. 

Republicans and Democrats are battling over whether to punish illegal immigrants and how to secure the border with Mexico. More attention is needed on the asylum, refugee, and student visa programs -- see pages 151 to 844 -- that we know, from experience, allow terrorists in.

Schumer is right that all the interest groups get something in the Senate bill. Everyone except Joe Public.

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About the Author
Betsy McCaugheyis a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Analysis and author of Beating Obamacare 2014.