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Goodlatte’s immigration reform bill has room for compromise

Greg Nash

Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) immigration bill, the Securing America’s Future Act (SAFA) may be the last chance this election year to pass a bill that would help the Dreamers.  It needs more support, but he should be able to get it from the Democrats.  

First, however, he needs to overcome the negative impression some Democrats have of him and his bill, which is expressed in this comment the ACLU made when SAFA was introduced:

“This bill should be viewed for what it is — an obvious attempt by longtime anti-Dreamer lawmaker Rep. Bob Goodlatte and his allies to derail a legislative solution for Dreamers.

“The policies in the new legislation are a collection of hardline provisions designed to sabotage, rather than advance, the possibility of a bipartisan breakthrough.”

The best approach may be to revise SAFA to include a statutory DACA program with a legalization program that would not become available until the bill’s enforcement measures are implemented.  Also, Goodlatte should remove enforcement measures that are not needed to prevent a recurrence of what happened the last time the Republicans agreed to a legalization program.

{mosads}The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) legalized 2.7 million people, but 10 years later, there were 5 million new undocumented aliens.  The enforcement measures that were supposed to prevent illegal immigration in the future were never implemented. 

Highlights from SAFA:

Legal Immigration

Border Security

Prevent future illegal immigration


  • Provide temporary legal status for the 790,000 DACA participants that would have to be renewed every three years


Diversity Visa program.  Democrats have shown a willingness to end this program.  Section 2303 of Senator Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, would have repealed the program if it had been enacted.

Chain migration.  The provision to end chain migration is not a new idea.  The bipartisan Commission on Immigration Reform recommended terminating it more than 20 years ago.

A compromise is possible.  Visas currently allocated for extended family members could be transitioned to a hybrid merit-based point system that would provide extra points for family ties to a citizen or LPR.  This could maintain the availability of visas for extended family members at an agreed upon level without losing the benefits of a merit-based system.

Reduction in legal immigration.  This isn’t just a deal-killer for Democrats.  It also would cause problems for Republicans when their constituents are hurt by it.  

The wall.  Trump will reject the bill if it doesn’t include a provision to build his wall.

Entry-exit record keeping system.  DHS has made progress establishing entry-exit systems at air and sea ports of entry but has not been able to do it at the ports of entry on land borders.  Too many crossings. On a typical day, CBP processes 691,549 incoming land travelers and 283,664 incoming privately-owned vehicles, in addition to thousands of commercial vehicles.

The data DHS has been able to collect indicates that 739,478 aliens overstayed their admission periods in FY 2016, but it does not provide their locations.  

What good does it do to identify 739,478 overstays if you can’t find them?

E-Verify.  Congress established employer sanctions with IRCA to eliminate the job magnet that draws undocumented aliens to the United States.  E-Verify is an internet-based verification system that makes it easier for employers to determine whether a prospective alien employee has work authorization.

The government has had more than 30 years to make employer sanctions work, and it hasn’t happened. It’s time for a different approach.  

Unscrupulous employers are drawn to undocumented aliens because they can be exploited easily.  I call this “the exploitation magnet.”  It can be addressed by providing the Department of Labor with funding to mount a large-scale, nationwide campaign to stop the exploitation of employees in industries known to hire large numbers of undocumented immigrants.

Sanctuary cities.  This is an emotionally charged issue which has resulted in litigation between the federal government and the State of California, and there already is at least one federal sanctuary law that is being ignored.

Making unlawful presence a crime.  The federal criminal justice system is overburdened already with criminal immigration offenses.  There were 81,881 federal immigration arrests in 2014, which was one-half of all the federal arrests.

DACA.  The DACA/delayed legalization program I have suggested is more likely to foster cooperation with the Democrats than just establishing renewable DACA status would be.

This bill gives Goodlatte a chance to raise Congress’ dismal 15 percent approval rating by showing that the parties can work together, and he does seem to be moving in that direction.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years; he subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years.

Tags Bob Goodlatte Bob Goodlatte Charles Schumer Demography Donald Trump DREAM Act E-Verify Government Illegal immigration Illegal immigration to the United States Immigration News Immigration Reform and Control Act Immigration to the United States Sanctuary city

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