With only a “working draft” on hand, the Democrat Leadership opened debate Monday on the new immigration bill – a bill no one has seen a final version of.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.) said, “It’s unthinkable we would pass this bill in one week. It’s not in bill language and we’ve had very little opportunity to study it. I think there will be every resistance to any plan to complete this bill this week.”
Over the weekend senators only had access to a draft of the bill for “discussion purposes only” which in small print ran over 300 pages. Once the working draft is put into proper legislative form, it’s expected to be anywhere from 800 to 1,000 pages long.
Because of the hurried way the immigration bill is being rushed through the Senate, no fiscal analysis has been completed to find out how much it will cost taxpayers. Closed-door negotiations over the bill took much longer than expected and in order to move forward without the final bill on hand. To buy time, Reid reintroduced last year’s abandoned immigration bill as a “placeholder” for the new bill last week. When it is ready, the new bill will be introduced as a “substitute amendment” to the “placeholder” immigration bill.
Because the new bill was not introduced as stand-alone legislation, it did not go through routine committee markup, fiscal analysis or congressional hearings. When he opened up the Senate floor Monday for debate on the bill, Reid said he had some “reservations” with the bill, but was ready to move forward on it. “Everyone agrees this bill is imperfect,” he said, “But what we have is a starting point.”
One of the most controversial points of the bill is the plan to issue illegal immigrants “z visas” that would give them legal working status. The “z visa” would be endlessly renewed as long as its holder paid the associated fines and passed criminal background checks. Critics say the hidden costs associated with giving low-skilled workers “z visas” would cost taxpayers trillions. For this reason Robert Rector, a Heritage Foundation senior research fellow, said “this is the most expensive bill the U.S. taxpayer has ever seen.”
In March 2006, nearly 9.3 million adult illegal immigrants were living inside the United States. Most of them did not have a high school education, or were “low-skilled.” On average in fiscal year 2004, each low-skilled immigrant household consumed $30,160 in government benefits and services, but only paid on average $10,573 in taxes each.
“They never contribute more than they take out and at retirement they become very costly,” Rector said in Capitol Hill press conference on Monday with Sessions, Sen. Jim Bunning (R.-Ky.) and Rep. Bill Bilbray (R.-Calif.).
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