Ira Mehlman

Some of the interests that stand to gain the most from the Senate Gang of Eight immigration bill, S. 744, are obvious.

Within six months of enactment of the bill, millions of illegal aliens would be eligible for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status – the first and most important step in the amnesty process. They would be granted permission to remain and work in the United States while they wait for green cards and eventual citizenship.

Also obvious winners in the 844-page bill are business interests that would gain easier access to foreign labor. S. 744 provides for significant increases in guest workers who would be made available to businesses, as well as new flows of low-skilled and skilled permanent immigrants.

But there are still others who would hit the jackpot if S. 744 were to become law: lawyers and an array of groups that advocate on behalf of illegal aliens.

The bill provides what amounts to an engraved invitation for illegal aliens to sue the government for amnesty, individually or as part of a class action, and in many instances authorizes the Attorney General to appoint attorneys to represent illegal aliens at taxpayers’ expense.

Not only does S.744 serve up potentially millions of new clients for immigration attorneys, the bill encourages illegal aliens to challenge a denial or revocation of RPI status. The bill authorizes illegal aliens to avail themselves of the federal court system, all the way up to the appellate court level, if they are turned down for amnesty.

Tying the federal court system in knots can be expensive, so S.744 also obligates American taxpayers, in many cases, to pay lawyers’ fees. First, the bill strikes the existing language that states that an alien’s right to counsel in an immigration case must be “at no expense to the government.”

The bill then goes on to grant the Attorney General “sole and unreviewable discretion, [to] appoint or provide counsel to aliens in immigration proceedings.” In cases involving unaccompanied minors, the legislation requires the Attorney General to appoint taxpayer-funded representation. Given Attorney General Eric Holder’s stated position that “creating a pathway to earned citizenship” for illegal aliens “is a matter of civil and human rights,” it is reasonable to assume that he will exercise his “sole and unreviewable discretion” rather broadly.

S.744 also provides lavishly for “community, faith-based or other immigrant-serving” organizations to conduct public information campaigns to promote amnesty, and to assist applicants through the process. The bill authorizes that the Secretary of Homeland Security “may use up to $50,000,000” from the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund to finance what amounts to a get-out-the-amnesty drive. The Trust Fund, which would be created by S.744, authorizes the transfer of $6.5 billion from “from the general fund of the Treasury.”

These same “eligible public or private, non-profit organizations” would also be permitted to dip into the Trust Fund to “provide direct assistance” to aliens who are applying for amnesty and “any other assistance that the Secretary or grantee considers useful to aliens who are interested in applying for registered provisional immigrant status.”

Thus, the illegal alien advocacy network not only gets just about everything they wanted politically out of the bill, but potentially hundreds of millions of dollars from the Treasury to make sure that the amnesty is carried out to their satisfaction.

S.744 is not just a bill that rewards illegal aliens with amnesty. It’s way worse than that. It is a cynical attempt to dress up the giveaway of billions of taxpayer dollars to lobbyists and assorted other special interests as “immigration reform.” Even those Americans who might support amnesty as the least bad way of dealing with 12 million, or so, illegal aliens living in the U.S., would be appalled at the taxpayer funded pork the bill serves up to lobbyists and advocacy groups.

The Gang of Eight bill is emblematic of what is wrong with Washington. It creates new opportunities for special interests to gorge themselves at the public trough, while doing nothing to rectify the fundamental flaw of current U.S. immigration policy – namely, the lack of any definable public interest objective. This bill has only one objective: to advance the political and economic objective of illegal aliens and the people who profit from them.


Ira Mehlman

Ira Mehlman is the Media Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.