July 25, 2006
Faced with withering support from Hispanic voters and growing dismay at the Republican-controlled government’s inability to act on the issue, two conservative Republicans officially proposed today an immigration plan that has become known as “enforcement first” in an effort to unite Republicans and pass an immigration bill before the November elections. Attempting to bridge the gap between the House’s focus on enforcement and the Senate’s insistence on a guestworker/legalization program, Representative Mike Pence’s (IN) and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (TX) plan essentially starts with border security measures with a guestworker program becoming available about two years later once the president certifies that the border measures have been implemented. The guestworker program would require all undocumented persons to return to their country to apply for a new guestworker visa at “Ellis Island processing centers” that would be operated by private commercial companies. Only certain countries with trade pacts with the U.S. would be eligible: Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. The guestworker visa would be good for up to 12 years with an additional 5 year transition visa. Guestworkers could apply for U.S. citizenship after the total of 17 years. Those who did not want to apply for U.S. citizenship would have to return to their countries. As an incentive to leave, they would be given a lump-sum payment in the amount of the Social Secrurity contributions they had paid into the system while employed in the U.S. In my opinion, the Hutchison-Pence proposal is unlikely to garner much support from either side with the result being the immigration issue on hold until next year after the elections have determined the make-up of the next Congress.