The Gang of Eight offers a solution on immigration

“As far back as I can remember,” said Henry Hill in the opening to “Goodfellas,”  “I always wanted to be a gangster.”

The same might be said of John McCain and our own Lindsey Graham. And I honor them for it.

The gangs they tend to join are all about uniting to get around the partisan dysfunction of Congress. This time, despite having been so badly burned by the issue six years ago, they are once again ganging up to try to pass a version of comprehensive immigration reform.

This time, there are some new gangsters, such as that kid out of Florida, Marco Rubio. And Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Robert Menendez, Michael Bennet and Jeff Flake. The Washington Post is calling this “a bipartisan push that would have been unimaginable just months ago on one of the country’s most emotionally divisive issues.”

Here’s the memo they’ve put together. This is the introduction:

We recognize that our immigration system is broken. And while border security has improved significantly over the last two Administrations, we still don’t have a functioning immigration system.This has created a situation where up to 11 million undocumented immigrants are living in the shadows. Our legislation acknowledges these realities by finally committing the resources needed to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are currently here. We will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited.

The document has a tendency to redundancy — “tough but fair” is mentioned three times on the first page (OK, technically, the third time it was “a tough, fair and practical roadmap”) — but readable. I just think it could have used a tough, but fair, editor.

Amid all sorts of stuff about tightening border security, giving our border patrol the latest technology and making sure people who are supposed to leave by a certain date actually do leave, there is the path to citizenship part:

While these security measures are being put into place, we will simultaneously require those who came or remained in the United States without our permission to register with the
government. This will include passing a background check and settling their debt to society
by paying a fine and back taxes, in order to earn probationary legal status, which will allow
them to live and work legally in the United States. Individuals with a serious criminal
background or others who pose a threat to our national security will be ineligible for legal
status and subject to deportation. Illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes
face immediate deportation…

Once the enforcement measures have been completed, individuals with probationary legal
status will be required to go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants, pass an
additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of
work in the United States, and current employment, among other requirements, in order to
earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency. Those individuals who
successfully complete these requirements can eventually earn a green card.

Individuals who are present without lawful status – not including people within the two
categories identified below – will only receive a green card after every individual who is
already waiting in line for a green card, at the time this legislation is enacted, has received
their green card. Our purpose is to ensure that no one who has violated America’s
immigration laws will receive preferential treatment as they relate to those individuals who
have complied with the law….

There’s a lot more. I invite y’all to go read it, and react.

37 thoughts on “The Gang of Eight offers a solution on immigration

  1. Doug Ross

    What incentive does an illegal immigrant have to abide by these laws? It will cost them money, it will lessen their likelihood of working as the cost to employ them rises. Will illegal immigrants who do not register still have access to government programs?

    And what happens if someone still manages to sneak over the border with the enhanced security after the registration process begins? What rights do they have? Do they get to stay if they manage to make it in?

    I’ll wait to hear how Lindsey spins this to maintain his current objective of propping up his conservative facade.

  2. Karen McLeod

    My hope is that they can actually come up with viable reform. My fear is that the fringe radicals son each side will start yelling and threatening so loudly that the politicians will again give into them, like they’ve been doing.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Doug, I see no reason for him to “spin” anything. Actual conservatives should like this approach. Nativists, not so much. Although there’s plenty of “tough” stuff in it for them, they tend to go off the emotional deep end at the notion that anyone here illegally could ever find a path to legitimacy.

    1. Doug Ross

      Define “nativists”. Is that someone who opposes all immigration or only opposes people who broke the law from getting some benefit from doing so?

      This is all political posturing. I’ll believe it’s real when the first illegal immigrant writes a check to the government for all past due taxes. Til then, it’s just amnesty for criminals.

    1. Steven Davis II

      What other country just lets aliens freely come and go within their borders? Can I go over to Germany, Ireland, China, etc… and decided to live and use their resources without becoming a legalized citizen? SC is having problems in rural areas because the kids of the illegals are entering school not being able to speak English. How much do hospitals have to raise their prices to pay for all the write-offs for treating people who are here in this country illegally? Illegals are technically sticking their hands in your pocket and you’re unable to understand why people are upset?

  4. Bryan Caskey

    It’s simple. If you could convince the vast majority of Americans that we had in fact, closed the border, that we were serious about enforcing the border, starting with something as simple as an actual, physical fence. (By the way, don’t tell me a fence doesn’t work – see Israel)

    If you can actually, substantially reduce (it won’t go to zero) the illegal immigrant rate to something de minimus, then the American people would then look at the 11 Million (or so) illegals as the last group of people and say: We aren’t going to deport them, we aren’t going to stigmatize them. If this is the end of this river of illegal immigrants, then (because this is the last group) then we will be what Americans have always been: generous. Over time, these people can become legalized. I’m not sure I would necessarily make them citizens, but I would be fine with making them resident legal aliens and bring them out of the shadows.

    Until you convince the American people that the river of illegals will continue to flow, there isn’t going to be much of a spirit of generosity, because another cohort of illegals will be on the way later.

    In short:

    1. Enforce the border, and reduce the river illegals to a trickle.
    2. Gradually naturalize the illegals who are here.
    3. Have a nice day.

    What’s next?

    1. Doug Ross

      Except #1 will not be done FIRST.

      And no one has explained what we do with those illegals who are perfectly happy as they are now.
      It’s going to cost a lot more to enter this program. It can only be worthwhile if the penalties for non-compliance are severe. And that’s not going to happen either. I am skeptical that we will see all these requirements (learning English, paying fines) actually enforced. That’s the proof I want to see. It’s not going to happen. Take the case of an illegal immigrant working as a landscaper. Let’s say he makes just $25,000 a year for a decade. At a minimum, he owes tens of thousands of dollars in taxes. Who will pay that?

      I believe workers on H1-B have to physically leave the country for a period of time (a week?) to remain in good standing. Many of my Indian co-workers take a short trip to Canada or Mexico to comply. That should be part of the process as well: register, go back across the border, then walk through legally into the U.S.

    2. Bryan Caskey

      The absolute key is to convince the American people that the current illegals in the country are the last cohort. Once you do that, all the objections pretty much fade. Heck, I don’t even really care if we check backgrounds, or make them pay back taxes.

      If you convince me these are the last, I’m prepared to make the illegals an offer they can’t refuse.

  5. Doug Ross

    Find us a test case. I want to see how this would work in real life.

    Does John Doe have to prove he has a job? If so, isnt he then exposing both the employer
    and his illegal co-workers to legal issues? He can’t say “I work at Smith’s Chicken
    Processing Plant” can he? Because then Smith is either avoiding paying taxes or else
    John Doe is using someone else’s identity illegally.

    There are so many holes in this plan it isn’t worth discussing. Makes nice theatre… but we all know
    how it will play out: amnesty for lawbreakers.

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    Here’s a statement Graham put out this afternoon regarding the Gang’s proposals:

    “I hope the third time is the charm. I have enjoyed working with my Senate colleagues in drafting these principles and believe we are off to a good start. The bipartisan immigration principles represent a real breakthrough on substance and I hope they will be seen as a breakthrough in forming a political coalition to finally solve our immigration problems. The coalition must also include the President and the House of Representatives.

    “My hope is immigration reform will start in the Senate and receive an overwhelming bipartisan vote. We’re a long way from having legislative language but I do believe 2013 presents us the best chance to pass immigration reform in many years. The time is right and the way forward, while difficult is being better defined by the day, and with a reasonable amount of political give and take we will be successful. However, if for some reason we fail in our efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform I do believe it will be many years before anyone is willing to try and solve this problem. We should start this new attempt hopeful and with full understanding how difficult the task is.”

    1. Doug Ross

      He must have been jonesing for a guest spot on Meet The Press… can’t let a month pass without dropping by.

    1. Doug Ross

      Based on what evidence of past performance?

      Or do you mean to say this will be like Obamacare where Congress votes for it without actually reading the bill?

      Seems like a simple question – how does one “demonstrate a history of
      work in the United States, and current employment, among other requirements,” without exposing the employer and other employees to possible legal action? Or are we granting amnesty to the employers as well – the ones who make illegal immigration worse by providing jobs to attract them?

  7. Doug Ross

    It is sure to bog down because the details are unworkable. There is no incentive for an illegal immigrant to register for the program. How many of them would be able to pay restitution for back taxes owed? How many are willing to come out of the shadows and explain away the multiple illegal acts they may have committed (identity fraud, driving without licenses or insurance)?

    There are really only two solutions: Full amnesty or more effective enforcement to prevent illegal immigrants from having access to jobs and government services.

    What Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and friends have proposed is a fairy tale.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Few probably owe taxes. They make sub-poverty wages for the most part. Most are subject to withholding, under assumed SSNs; money they will never see again.

      1. Doug Ross


        Do you have any evidence to support your claim that “most are subject to withholding under an assumed name”? Most of 11,000,000 people are paying into Social Security under false id’s? I highly doubt it. I’d say a small percentage.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Doug, I think Kathryn’s probably right on the tax thing. That doesn’t seem like much of a barrier to me. They probably don’t owe much in income taxes, and unless they’re paid in cash (which I’m sure is often the case, which is a problem), they’ve already paid FICA taxes. And of course, they’ve had no way to avoid paying sales taxes.

      But what is your practical suggestion? Are you saying we should eliminate the requirement that they pay back taxes, as too much of barrier? Fine. It’s only in there, really, to please the people who deeply resent these people’s presence. I think getting all these people into the system is important enough to let back taxes slide if that’s the price, although I think it’s more orderly and just that they pay them.

      I could go either way.

      1. Steven Davis II

        Where do their kids go to school? Who pays for the free lunches? Where do their wives go to have yet another baby? Who pays their medical bills? When they drive without insurance who pays for their accidents? Immigration reform should mean the INS buying a bunch of buses and vans.

  8. Doug Ross

    How would they pay FICA taxes? Explain that to me. Under whose name would they be paying? Because I would assume anyone receiving an actual payroll check would have had to go through E-verify.

    When you say they don’t owe much in income taxes, what does that mean? What is “not much”? The tax rate is 15% Federal for incomes between 8,700 and 35,000. Multiply that by however many years they’ve been here.

    You get so hung up on the idea that people hate their presence. That’s untrue. As MLK said, it’s not about the color of their skin, it’s about the content of their character. They enter the country illegally, avoid paying most taxes, drive without insurance or licenses, commit identity fraud. Which of those illegal acts would you condone?

    People hate that they are allowed to get away with committing criminal acts without any penalty. It’s the same way I feel about people who cheat on their taxes and get away with it. The same way I feel about people who get paid under the table. The same way I feel about people who drive without insurance. The same way I feel about healthy people who park in handicap parking spaces. We either have laws or we don’t.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      And here I always thought you were such a libertarian. You’re sounding very law-and-order.

      I’m a law and order guy myself, which is why I want these folks in the system, paying all those taxes. I just don’t consider coming here in order to get a job to feed your family as such a crime that you can’t set it straight by sitting down and doing all the proper paperwork. They’re status offenders. So fix their status. It’s not a big, moral question to me.

      When I see illegals slaving away at tough, thankless jobs, I don’t resent them. I’m sorry to see them in such a desperate situation that they would resort to such strategies to survive.

      1. Doug Ross

        But you willfully ignore all the other illegal activity they have been committing for years. That’s what amnesty is.

        Will you give the same amnesty to Americans who don’t pay taxes, commit identity fraud, and drive without insurance?

      2. Doug Ross

        And is it just illegals who work at tough, thankless jobs? The fact that thy work under the radar and at below market wages (without taxes) prevents other Americans from even having a shot at those jobs. These people have been net drains on the economy and net takers of finite resources paid for by taxpayers.

        We’re talking about brushing aside years of illegal activity with the stroke of a pen.

  9. Doug Ross

    And as a libertarian, I am law and order. I want a few simple laws – starting with don’t steal, don’t get benefits you have not paid for.

    I have no problem with any immigrant walking through the front door and doing whatever he can do to make the most of his life. I have no respect, empathy, compassion for those who choose to enter illegally. If you want to send humanitarian aid to Mexico, go ahead. If you want to increase the number of immigrants allowed in, go ahead. But a crime is a crime.

  10. Brad Warthen Post author

    Yes, I want to increase the number of people allowed in. And I think it should have been done a long, long time ago. In which case, these people would be here legally.

    I’m for bringing immigration policy more in line with the market for labor, both skilled and unskilled.

    1. Doug Ross

      So push for that. Everyone gets in line (those here now get to the back of the line). Til they get to the front of the line, we enforce the laws in place to prevent them from working illegally and reaping any benefit from the taxpayers. We don’t have to deport them, just don’t support them.

  11. Doug Ross

    The comments on the online version of The State’s story about Graham saying he’s willing to take the heat on his immigration stance are interesting. Of the 56 comments, I’d say 90% say he’s wrong. I think he’s going to back down again on this as the word gets out.

  12. Mark Stewart

    Illegal immigrants come to work. They are illegal because they don’t have any avenue to come legally. Then we do stupid things like not allowing them to get a drivers license – so then they can’t get insurance. Who’s fault is that?

    Try to fill the kinds of positions immigrants take without them. It isn’t possible. It has always, always been like that – since before the founding of our country. Doug seems willfully ignorant of the thankless, invisible laboring that still underpins the knowledge economy.

    All E-verify does is keep the immigrants out of the more desirable labor positions. It keeps them from advancing personally but it does not satisfy the needs of business. It’s all just senseless moralizing.

    How about just making it really hard to be an illegal alien – but not legally impossible – and then be thankful that those who are willing to suffer and toil to make a life here are exactly the kind of people we want adding to our national melting pot?

    Or we can delude ourselves into spending billions and billions of wasted dollars building some sort of southern fence along the border. And still have illegal immigrants. It would be much better to consider why we have chosen to call them illegal in the first place.

  13. Doug Ross


    Why does it always come back to the people who want to “suffer and toil”? Let’s separate the “heroic” nature of the illegal immigrant from the issue at hand: we have 11 million people in the U.S. who are not supposed to be here. If you want to wave a magic wand and make them all citizens, go ahead. Your heart will feel good. Then we’re left with 11,000,0000 lower class citizens who will be eligible for all sorts of government services. These are not net revenue generators. Do we add all of the ones who are over age 65 to Social Security and Medicare? Do we provide free and reduced lunches to all the children? Where’s the money going to come from?

  14. Mark Stewart

    I think we should make it possible for people to get a work permit, drivers license, etc. I think the hurdle to get a work permit should be low. The only thing we should do is require at least the last three years before high school graduation for kids who want to enroll in a subsidized college program.

    I think the bar for citizenship should be high, but achievable.

    Then, we should be serious about deporting illegals; including the student visa overstays. But I bet we wouldn’t have the influx that so many fear.

    Instead we pretend. That doesn’t seem productive public policy to me.

  15. Doug Ross

    Here’s Marco Rubio offering further explanation on his “must haves” for any immigration reform bill:

    ” First, those who have violated our immigration laws must come forward and undergo a background check. If they have committed a serious crime, they will be deported. If they have not, they will have two choices. They can avail themselves of the current law which requires them to return to their native country, wait ten years and then apply for a green card. Or if they decide to remain in the United States, they will do so under the equivalent of a non-immigrant work permit by paying a substantial fine and back taxes. If they choose the non-immigrant work visa, they will not qualify for any federal benefits, including ObamaCare.”

    Notice he said “back taxes”. Just for FICA, that’s 6.5 cents for every dollar earned while in this country. Very few illegal immigrants will be able to afford that bill. As I said, how do you prove you have a job and absolve your employer from paying back taxes? What happens when 20 people say “I worked at the chicken processing plant”?

  16. Doug Ross

    And reading Rubio’s statement, which illegal immigrants who HAVE committed a serious crime are going to come forward so they can be deported? This “plan” makes no sense.


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