Friday, April 12, 2013

An Immigration Reform No One has Read and No One Understands

The Gang of Eight - four Democratic and four Republican U.S. senators - has been meeting behind closed doors since January to produce "comprehensive immigration reform." That will mean a multi-thousand-page bill that no one reads.

You know the saying "fool me twice." Americans got bamboozled in 2010 when the 2,572-page Obama health law was rushed through Congress unread. The surprises buried in that law are causing havoc.

Let's not repeat the mistake of "comprehensive" reform. Congress needs to fix immigration one step at a time, passing individual bills in plain English on border security, hiring, access to benefits such as ObamaCare and pathways to citizenship.

Short, readable bills will prevent shockers like the immigration provisions hidden in the Obama health law. Here are three examples - red flags for what's ahead.

Americans are generous and welcoming, as we should be.  But in tough times, it's fair to look after our own first. The Obama health law does the opposite, giving a better deal to noncitizens than to citizens.

Down In The Dumps

If you're a citizen working for minimum wage and you are uninsured, the Obama health law will dump you onto Medicaid as of Jan. 1, 2014.

"Dump" is the right word. Medicaid is generally inferior coverage, largely because it pays doctors and hospitals so little.

Surgery patients on Medicaid are 50% more likely to die in the hospital than surgery patients with private coverage, according to the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The better alternative - private coverage - is what low-income legal immigrants will get as of Jan. 1, 2014.

ObamaCare's authors wanted to sidestep the longstanding federal requirement that newcomers wait five years to be eligible for Medicaid.

So they pulled a fast one, making legal immigrants immediately eligible for subsidized private plans on the insurance exchanges, with no waiting period and no income requirements.

That coverage is valued at about $3,000 more than Medicaid coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Newcomers will have better access to doctors and better medical outcomes than low-income citizens stuck in Medicaid.

To prevent more unfairness, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions offered an amendment on the floor of the U.S. Senate on March 23 anticipating the Gang of Eight's proposal.

The amendment said illegals upgraded to legal status would not immediately qualify for ObamaCare. Amazingly, the amendment was defeated, with all Democrats and two Republicans voting against it.

11 Million Eligible Illegal Immigrants

Yet without a provision like that, at least 11 million illegal immigrants could become eligible for ObamaCare when their legal status changes, costing an estimated $50 billion to $66 billion a year.

That's unaffordable, when the nation is making elderly Americans settle for less care. Cuts in Medicare pay for half of the Obama health law.


Senate deal on citizenship unlikely to please immigrant groups

The 11 million immigrants who are living in the country illegally will have a path to citizenship opened to them in a Senate bipartisan deal on immigration reform, but that opening hinges on stricter U.S. border security.

As the Senate’s so-called “Gang of Eight” lawmakers prepares to release its proposal for comprehensive immigration reform, details regarding the bill’s path to citizenship have made their way into the press.

“Immigrants in the U.S. illegally would not gain green cards under a bipartisan Senate bill until law-enforcement officials are monitoring the entire southern border and stopping 90% of people crossing illegally in certain areas,” according to sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal. The legal framework of the path to citizenship would be implemented after 10 years, but “only if the border security targets have been met” and “full E-Verify systems have been implemented.”

Such measures are unlikely to please immigrant justice activists who have insisted that a path to citizenship not be linked to increased policing.

“Bottom line is, we want a bill that lays out a clear and expeditious path to citizenship, that’s not tethered to enforcement, and doesn’t have insurmountable barriers,” Kica Matos, director of immigrant rights and racial justice for the Center for Community Change, told before the details of the plan had been leaked.

Matos’ organization co-hosted a rally in Washington, D.C., Wednesday where thousands protested on behalf of a path to full citizenship.

SEIU 32BJ, a service sector union, and another co-host for Wednesday’s rally, also opposes tying such benchmarks to a path to citizenship.

“We don’t want, this time around, to put impossible goals on security that make it really difficult to have a trigger for our path to citizenship,” said Hector Figueroa, SEIU 32BJ president.

United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta described the leaked plan as “kind of unreasonable” on Wednesday’s All In with Chris Hayes. But she remained optimistic that the bill might look very different by the time it reaches the president’s desk.

“We just have to remember that the bill’s going to be coming out of the Senate first, and it’s got to go over to the House side,” she said. “If you look at what happened in 1986, when we got the last big immigration reform, the whole deal was really cut in the conference committee.”

A bipartisan group of House members is putting together a proposal of its own, which is said to include three different paths to citizenship, which would grant an expedited citizenship process for young “Dreamers,” agricultural workers, and immigrants who are employed or have naturalized family members. The White House is said to favor a plan that would require undocumented immigrants to wait eight years before being granted citizenship.

Anti-immigrant groups are already organizing against any path to citizenship proposal. But the popular political momentum might be on the side of those who support a quick path to citizenship. A new NBC/WSJ poll reports that 54% of those surveyed agree that “immigration adds to the nation’s character and strengthens it by bringing diversity and talent to the country.” Even more of those surveyed, 64%, said they favored a path to citizenship.

Matos declined to comment to on the initial details of the senate proposal,  saying, “We haven’t seen the bill yet, so it’s premature to comment.” However, she added that the Center for Community Change remained committed to “a path to citizenship for the 11 million [immigrants] that’s not tethered to enforcement.”

Kevin Williamson of the conservative National Review told All In that, while he is a “border hawk,” he believed the border security provisions mentioned in the initial plan were unrealistic.

The requirement that border security catch 90% of undocumented immigrants “is probably something that’s not going to be honestly reached on any short period of time,” he said.


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