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  • Corker–Hoeven Immigration Amendment: Far from a Game Changer

    John Hoeven (L), R-ND, and Senator Bob Corker (R), R-TN (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom)

    John Hoeven (L), R-ND, and Senator Bob Corker (R), R-TN (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom)

    It’s been called a both a “game changer” and a major “breakthrough” for the Senate Gang of Eight’s immigration bill (S. 744). In reality, however, the Corker–Hoeven amendment (or perhaps more accurately the Schumer–Corker–Hoeven amendment) is far from a magic solution to our nation’s border security challenges.

    A new 1,000-plus-page bill has just been filed incorporating the changes from the Corker–Hoeven amendment. Initial reports indicate that the amendment calls for:

    • A Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy to be deployed and operational, including the minimum technology and equipment listed in S. 744;
    • An additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents to be deployed, maintained, and stationed along the southern border;
    • The Southern Border Fencing Strategy to be implemented and at least 700 miles of fencing to be completed;
    • An entry/exit system to track visa overstays to be fully implemented at all airports and seaports; and
    • E-Verify to be fully implemented by all employers.

    This may all sound great on paper, but dig a little deeper and you’ll see that, just like in the language of the bill, none of the border security measures in the Corker–Hoeven amendment have to be in place until illegal immigrants with registered provisional immigrant status are to receive green cards 10 years down the road.

    In other words, the amendment would allow millions of illegal immigrants to receive amnesty now, and then maybe we will get to securing the border somewhere down the road. This is exactly the kind of false border security “trigger” we saw in the original bill as well; nothing has really changed.

    Importantly, the amendment still does little to actually stop those who become illegal immigrants by overstaying their visas. Currently, about 40 percent of illegal immigrants are visa overstays. The Corker–Hoeven amendment promises a new entry/exit system to track visa overstays, but that’s all it is: a promise that may or may not be implemented. Beyond that, even if the system were implemented, it doesn’t provide enough actionable information for law enforcement to actually do something about overstays.

    Also at issue is how much the Corker–Hoeven amendment would cost. Even assuming modest border agent salaries of $50,000 a year, it would cost $1 billion just to put these agents on the payroll, and that’s not including the costs of substantial benefits, pensions, and deployment and maintenance. Of course, the bill would ignore the Budget Control Act, spending billions more without any corresponding cuts to make up for it.

    After all of this, the Corker–Hoeven amendment does not even promise a reduction in illegal immigration. With the amendment, the illegal immigrant population in the U.S. could continue to grow and even reach today’s levels, but the border would still be deemed secure.

    There is a better way. A far better metric of how well our border security is working would be to use a tool such as the American Community Survey to measure the number of illegal immigrants entering and staying in the country.

    The U.S. also needs to make targeted investments on the border, but we can do this without throwing billions of dollars at empty promises of future security and enforcement. Importantly, these investments should not be mere promises that follow amnesty; they should be the first focus of any immigration reform bill.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

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