Critics of a bipartisan immigration bill proposed by two Texans claim it does not include any new border fence proposals, won't end the president's deportation deferral program, and doesn't go far enough to evict illegal children streaming over the border.
And, they tell Secrets, the compromise hammered out by Republican Sen. John Cornyn and Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar amounts to "amnesty" because it opens the door to letting those already facing removal orders have another chance to make their case to stay.
“This gives those who have been issued a final order or removal another bite at the apple, so in that sense, it is an amnesty,” said a memo being circulated in advance of a “members only” meeting called by Cornyn for this afternoon.
Cornyn's team, however, rejected that charge and said illegal immigrants ordered out would not get a free pass.
Cornyn has been pushing hard to get members to adopt his joint plan and there are concerns it might be folded into a Democratic plan that supports the president’s recently announced proposal. Democrats cut $1 billion out Obama’s $3.7 billion plan on Tuesday.
Cornyn-Cuellar call their bill the Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency Act and said it would treat unaccompanied children from Latin America like those from Mexico by speeding up immigration hearings with more judges. Many believe it is a good compromise package.
But immigration hardliners and even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid say it is too broad.
For example, say some critics on background, it doesn’t effectively end the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals authorized in 2012 that puts on hold deportations of younger illegal immigrants. It also wouldn’t block Obama from granting amnesty to some 5 million to 6 million already in in the United States, as demanded by Latin groups.
The internal memo is the latest example of how heated the fight over immigration reform is getting. In a floor speech today, Cornyn cited opposition from Democrats and said, "I would urge all of us to forget the politics and let's solve the problem."
The memo shown to Secrets lists several issues with Cornyn-Cuellar:
— Those who voluntarily return home can cross the U.S. border again without punishment.
— While it creates a seven-day court process for younger illegals, its likely that the minors will be handed over to officials to review their asylum claim, during which they will be released from custody. Most never return. The bill sponsors, however, said the bill would require detention.
— For those who haven’t returned to court in over a year, as well as those issued deportation orders but still in the U.S., the proposal invites them back but also gives them a chance to appeal. The language in the bill only includes the words “motion granted,” not also “denied.” This is seen as second shot at the judicial system, say the critics, and amounts to amnesty because the bill language is cloudy on what to do with them.
-- It leaves border security to the president, who GOP leaders like Speaker John Boehner has said can't be trusted on the issue.
— No new fencing is required.
But Cornyn's team said the bill wouldn't bar new fencing and does call for tactical infrastructure including the construction of new physical and virtual barriers.
Also, addressing the amnesty charge, a spokeswoman said, "There is no circumstance under which a previous removal order would not be replaced with a new immigration enforcement order under the HUMANE Act. Because the Obama administration has failed to enforce our immigration laws against unaccompanied alien children who have failed to appear for immigration court proceedings, the HUMANE Act would require them to appear before an immigration judge if they had illegally entered the United States during the current surge of illegal immigration.
"Once these individuals have appeared in immigration court, they would be detained by the government and required to immediately prove a claim to remain in the United States legally. If the child fails to prove this claim, they will be ordered removed from the United States and detained until they are repatriated to their home country.
"In order to prevent appeals and other delays to removal, the immigration judge would replace existing court orders with new immigration enforcement orders under the HUMANE Act."Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com.