Monday, April 8, 2013

New immigration reform plan appears to be destined for defeat

Charles Krauthammer

Is a bipartisan immigration deal at hand? It’s close. Last week, the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce worked out a guest-worker compromise that allows in foreign workers on a sliding scale of 20,000 to 200,000, depending on the strength of the economy.

Nice deal. As are the other elements of the Senate’s bipartisan Gang of Eight plan — the expansion of H-1B visas for skilled immigrants, serious tracking of visa overstayers and, most important, a universal E-Verify system that would make it very risky for any employer to hire an illegal immigrant.

But there’s the rub. It’s the perennial rub. Are Democrats serious about border enforcement? It’s supposed to be the trigger that would allow illegal immigrants to start on the path to citizenship.

Why is a trigger necessary?

To prevent a repeat of the 1986 fiasco where amnesty was granted and border enforcement never came — giving us today’s 11 million living in the shadows.

Yet just a week ago Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, referring to border enforcement, averred that “relying on one thing as a so-called trigger is not the way to go.”

Regarding legalization, “there needs to be certainty.” But not for border security?

And she’s the person in charge of securing that border. Now listen to President Obama: “Given the size of the border, it’s never going to be 110 percent perfect. What we can do is to continue to improve it.”

The usual Obama straw man. Who’s asking for 110 percent enforcement? And the need is for something a lot more than just improvement.

The objective is to reduce a river to a trickle. It’s doable. The two border sections with triple fencing outside San Diego reduced infiltration by 92 percent. (If the president tells you that fences don’t work, ask him why he has one around the White House.)

To be sure, the Gang of Eight enforcement trigger is not ideal. The 11 million get near-instant legalization — on the day, perhaps six to nine months after the bill is signed, when Homeland Security submits a plan (with the required funding) to achieve within a decade 90 percent apprehension and 100 percent real-time surveillance.


Legal aid curb for foreign migrants in Britain

Foreign migrants are to be banned from obtaining legal aid for civil claims until they have lived in Britain for at least a year.

The crackdown on immigrants’ rights is among the changes to be announced by ministers this week to cut the £1.7 billion legal aid bill by approximately £300 million.

It will hit illegal immigrants, failed asylum seekers and even those on tourist or student visas who have taken advantage of the lax rules or lack of checks on their status.

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, said the measures would be “difficult but sensible”. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph he said: “It’s not about denying people access to justice … it’s about achieving the right balance for what you can afford.”

Mr Grayling is to take an axe to criminal legal aid in an effort to limit large taxpayer-funded payments to lawyers. Some leading QCs can receive as much as £500,000 a year from the government for defending suspects.

The Justice Secretary said nobody whose earnings came from the public sector “should reasonably expect” to earn more than the Prime Minister, who is paid £142,000 a year.

The residency test for foreign migrants claiming civil legal aid comes after a promise by David Cameron to make Britain the “toughest” country on benefits for them.

Ministers will hold a consultation on a proposal to ensure that, in future, new arrivals will not be able to receive legal aid in cases that involve benefits, housing or relationship breakdowns.

A senior Coalition source said: “At a time when we have had to make difficult decisions about legal aid to ensure that taxpayers can have confidence in how we spend their money, we believe that in future, civil legal aid should be limited to those who have a strong connection to this country.”

There are currently no nationality or residence restrictions on civil legal aid. Ministers plan to make it a requirement for solicitors to see documentary evidence of at least 12-month residency before taking on cases.

There will be some exceptions, including serving members of the Armed Forces and their families, and asylum seekers.

Mr Grayling said: “There are a number of areas where somebody who comes to this country even on a tourist visa can access civil legal aid. We are going to change that.

“There have been examples of people who have come to the country for extraordinarily short periods of time who have had a relationship breakdown and then they end up in our courts at our expense to determine custody of the children.

“This will exclude people who enter the country illegally, who up to now have been able to access our legal aid system in a way I don’t think should ever have happened.”

Despite a previous crackdown on civil legal aid by Kenneth Clarke, who preceded Mr Grayling as justice secretary, Britain’s overall legal aid bill, at £1.7 billion a year, remains high. France, in contrast, spends £400 million.


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