Senators behind the compromise border-security amendment that has put the "Gang of Eight" immigration package on path to clear the Senate this week are rebutting criticism that their proposal falls short of its promises.
In a lengthy "myth vs. fact" statement, Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, authors of the co-called "border surge" amendment, are trying to tamp down attacks from conservatives. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and his staff have been the primary critics of Corker-Hoeven, which in turn has been picked up and widely disseminated by opponents of comprehensive immigration reform.
The full "myth vs. fact" review follows:
The Hoeven-Corker Amendment: Myth vs. Fact
MYTH: There's no guarantee the Hoeven-Corker amendment will decrease illegal immigration. There are no results triggers, so there's a chance we spend $46 billion "securing the border" and not see a substantial decrease in illegal immigration.
FACT: The amendment contains tangible, concrete triggers which ensure that Registered Provisional Immigrants (RPIs) cannot receive green cards until at least 10 years after the enactment of the bill, AND the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, the Inspector General, and GAO, certifies that:
An unprecedented surge of an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents are deployed, maintained and stationed along the southern border, more than doubling the current force.
The Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy is deployed and operational, which includes, at a minimum, full implementation and activation of the $4.5 billion in specific technology and equipment requested by the Border Patrol to achieve full surveillance of the border.
The Southern Border Fencing Strategy has been implemented, and at least 700 miles of fencing has been completed along the southern border. (There are 350 miles of pedestrian fencing already deployed along the southern border. This amendment would double that and ensure a total of 700 miles of fencing along the border.)
The mandated electronic visa entry/exit system has been fully implemented at all air and sea ports of entry where U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are currently deployed, which will improve the identification of those who overstay their visas.
E-Verify is being used by all employers in the country, making it virtually impossible to work in the United States illegally.
In addition to the border security measures outlined above, the amendment mandates the initiation of removal proceedings for at least 90% of visa overstays - 40% of the illegal immigration problem - holding DHS accountable for failing to enforce the law and targeting an issue that is at the core of a policy of de facto amnesty.
MYTH: Hoeven-Corker grants instant amnesty.
FACT: In order to adjust to lawful RPI status, unlawful immigrants would be required to pay a fine, pass criminal and national security background checks, and start paying taxes. Only after ALL FIVE "triggers" of the Hoeven-Corker Amendment have been fully implemented AND at least 10 YEARS have passed can RPIs apply for a green card.
MYTH: Hoeven-Corker is 1,200 pages that nobody has read. Nobody knows what's in it.
FACT: The notion that there are 1,200 NEW pages is very misleading. The tough border and interior enforcement provisions of Hoeven-Corker make up 119 pages added to the 1,100 that have been public since May. Also, most of the text aside from the border security improvements was from already filed and publicly available amendments. Since Friday, all members have had the text of the amendment and will have more than 72 hours to read and review the proposal before any votes. It's not complicated: 20,000 Border Patrol agents, 700 miles of fence, 90% of overstays, and no abuse of federal benefits.
MYTH: The amendment does not actually require 700 miles of fence before RPIs can receive green cards.
FACT: Section 3 of the Hoeven-Corker amendment makes it clear that before RPIs can adjust to lawful permanent resident status, the Southern Border Fencing Strategy must be implemented, putting in place "no fewer than 700 miles of pedestrian fencing." The limitation in Section 5 states that DHS has some discretion in WHERE the fencing gets constructed as it drafts its strategy. Section 5 does not reference and therefore does not limit the requirements in Section 3 to establish 700 miles of pedestrian fencing before RPIs can apply for a green card.
MYTH: The amendment puts the American taxpayer on the hook for $38 billion.
FACT: CBO says the underlying immigration bill would reduce the deficit by $197 billion in the next 10 years and by $690 billion during the second decade. The total cost of security measures added by the Hoeven-Corker amendment is $38 billion. The base bill designates $8 billion to security measures, bringing the total cost of security measures for the bill, as amended, to $46 billion. The U.S. taxpayer will more than be made whole with the visa fees and by the $459 billion in additional tax revenue that result in the large deficit reduction.
MYTH: The amendment is only about the border and does nothing to address the visa overstay issue.
FACT: Visa overstays currently account for 40% of those unlawfully present in our country. This problem goes largely unaddressed because individuals identified as unlawfully present are not systematically removed. The administration has not considered their removal a priority, and in many cases, has established policies to delay their removal. The underlying bill improves the identification of overstays through a fully implemented entry/exit system. The Hoeven-Corker amendment goes a step further by mandating the initiation of removal proceedings for at least 90% of visa overstays - holding DHS accountable for failing to enforce the law and targeting an issue that is at the core of a policy of de facto amnesty. The amendment also requires extensive reporting to Congress every six months to facilitate oversight of the overstay issue.
MYTH: Section 2302 says if you overstay your visa in the future you can still apply for a green card and become a citizen.
FACT: That is a tortured and deliberately misleading reading of the amendment. This provision ONLY applies to Track Two of the new Merit-Based green card program which requires a person to have been LAWFULLY present in the U.S. for 10 CONSECUTIVE YEARS in an employment authorized status and then down the road it becomes 20 consecutive years. This provision was intended to apply to persons currently in the United States in the lawful status known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) - a status granted to eligible nationals of certain countries who are already in the United States and cannot return to their country due to conditions such as an environmental disaster or humanitarian crisis - who may have previously overstayed their visa prior to having been granted TPS.
MYTH: The 20,000 additional Border Patrol agents won't begin to be deployed until 2017.
FACT: The only reference in the bill to the year 2017, as it relates to the deployment of border security resources, is in reference to a mandate on DHS that says the 3,500 Customs and Border Protection officers they are required to deploy for points of entry MUST BE HIRED by 2017. This is a positive provision that will ensure additional CBP officers are in place as quickly as possible, and in no way delays the deployment of the additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents. Under Hoeven-Corker, the Border Patrol must deploy 20,000 additional agents before RPIs can adjust to a green card. There will be no time to waste.