The Democrats are already forming their strategy for reintroducing “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” when they take power next January. Reports from a meeting of Democrats Ted Kennedy and Luis Gutierrez, with Arizona Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake indicate that the plan is to wait until the Democrats have “dealt with” Iraq (whatever that means) and raised the minimum wage. They’ll be ready to go with a new version of the Senate bill that failed last summer.
The next six weeks present an opportunity for the Republican Rule of Law Caucus.
Republicans should not wait for the Democrats. Instead, they should quietly introduce legislation that would increase the budget and manpower for the Citizenship and Immigration Services. CIS is the agency that processes applications for people who are trying to comply with U.S. immigration law. The Rule of Law Party should lead the way in helping those who want to obey the law and become U.S. citizens. We should commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to clear out the backlog of applications, and to make the agency competent.
There is a political advantage to moving first on this modest proposal. We can make it a condition for any new guest worker programs, or any increases in flows of immigrants under existing programs. In other words, no new migrants, until we can process the people already in the pipeline.
Republicans should acknowledge that the U S government hasn’t exactly made it easy for people to comply with our immigration law. In the 2004 class-action lawsuit, Ngwanyia v. Ashcroft, 22,000 immigrants who were granted asylum in the United States, sued because their applications for permanent resident status had been delayed for years due to bureaucratic delays. The government's failure to adjust their status unnecessarily lengthened the time before which they could become US citizens, and improperly required many asylees to repeatedly obtain work permits.
Besides being a hardship for potentially legal immigrants and harmless refugees, lack of funding at the CIS can result in compromises of national security. Whistleblower Michael Maxwell claims that in 2005, over 600,000 immigration applications were not properly investigated for national security threats. The Washington Post recently reported the US Citizenship and Immigration Services lost track of 111,000 files, and processed 30,000 citizenship applications without the necessary files. Just as we don’t tolerate people breaking our laws by entering the country illegally, the Rule of Law Party should insist on accountability from immigration bureaucrats.
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at jennifer-roback-morse.blogspot.com
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