12 Scenes from the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007

Sticking your nose in the sausage factory

Herewith, some random results from dipping into the 970-page Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1348), as introduced by Harry Reid and late last week still being considered by the Senate of the United States of America.

I have not read every word, or even dipped into every page, of this legislation. I may be the only person reporting, opining or, God forbid, voting on this bill in this state of ignorance. Yet I doubt it.

1) The Table of Contents. It is eight pages long. Its prose has aspects of the telegrammatic late-period James Ellroy, and a similar sense of decadence and doom, of an encircling world of grim circumstance from which no effort will free us. “False statement in an application for a passport. Forgery and unlawful production of a passport….schemes to defraud liens…marriage fraud. Attempts and conspiracies…Exceptions for refugees, asyless, and other vulnerable persons…transportation and processing of illegal aliens apprehended by state and local law enforcement officers….Protecting immigrants from convicted sex offenders.” This taking possession of the lives and fortunes of millions of human beings business can get very complicated and highly bureaucratized. Many sections are required.

2) From Sec. 4: “If any provision of this Act, any amendment made by this Act, or the application of such provision or amendment to any person or circumstance is held to be invalid for any reason, the remainder of this Act, the amendments made by this Act, and the application of the provisions of such to any other person or circumstance shall not be affected by such holding.” We may have screwed up once, twice, even a dozen times in this very, very comprehensive bill, courts, but please don’t throw out the baby with the bad apples.

3) From Sec. 101: “During each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2012, the Secretary shall, subject to the availability of appropriations, increase by not less than 200 the number of positions for personnel within the Department assigned to investigate alien smuggling.” An important aspect of lawmaking: the recognition of the reality principle. Maybe they will do this thing the law says—which anyone who reports on the bill, if it passes with this provision unamended and unstricken, will undoubtedly report as a done deal. But it remains “subject to the availability of appropriations”—and thus the rethinking of future Congresses, without having to pass an entirely new bill.

4) From Sec 102: After a long list of things they want the Department of Defense to report on and consider re: providing equipment and aid in patrolling the border looking for illegal immigrants: “Nothing in this section may be construed as altering or amending the prohibition on the use of any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus under section 1385 of title 18, United States Code.” How sweet! They remembered!

5) From Sec. 106: “The Secretary shall immediately commence construction of the fencing, barriers, and roads described in subsections (a), (b), and (c) and shall complete such construction not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act.” Only two more years (or immediately, if we just eliminated the penalties for entering this country to work and people chose less stressful means to get in than being smuggled by coyotes to border towns, such as, say, bus tickets) until the citizens of the Yuma and Naco regions of Arizona are totally free of the scourge of people dashing through their land, yards, and towns on the way to an uncertain future.

6) From Sec. 112: The bill demands “An assessment of the most appropriate, practical, and cost-effective means of defending the international land and maritime borders of the United States against threats to security and illegal transit, including intelligence capacities, technology, equipment, personnel, and training needed to address security vulnerabilities.” Perhaps said assessment will include the advice that not burying such actual security threats, should they exist, among millions of nonhostiles who just want a better paying job would be a good first step. Or perhaps not.

7) From Sec. 113: The bill commits us to commence “applying the necessary pressures and support to ensure that other countries meet proper travel document standards and are committed to travel document verification before the citizens of such countries travel internationally, including travel by such citizens to the United States; and…providing technical assistance for the development and maintenance of a national database built upon identified best practices for biometrics associated with visa and travel documents.” The United States, you see, is the freest land on the globe. And we are going to stay that way, by making sure other countries move away from freedom in lockstep with us.

8) From Sec. 116: “The Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection shall collect statistics relating to deaths occurring at the border between the United States and Mexico, including (1) the causes of the deaths; and (2) the total number of deaths.” Yes, it’s always good to know, isn’t it?

9) From Sec. 130: “Not later than 60 days after the initiation of each contract action with a company whose headquarters is not based in the United States, the Secretary shall submit a report to the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, regarding the Secure Border Initiative.” With a 790 page bill here, and all these reports being filed by order of those bills there, senators and their committee staff have a great deal to read. One can imagine the occasional important matter slipping through the cracks with a government of such scope.

10) From Sec. 1547: “Any person who--(1) knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws; or (2) knowingly misrepresents the existence or circumstances of a marriage….shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.” The investigation and ferreting out of the true, deep-down, for-real emotional meaning and circumstances of a marriage is a widely felt need in American’s private lives; seems a shame to restrict it to “green card marriages.” There’s always the next Comprehensive Act.

11) From Sec. 240D: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to require law enforcement personnel of a State or a political subdivision to assist in the enforcement of the immigration laws of the United States.” Los Angeles’s “Special Order 40” and related laws keeping local cops out of immigration enforcement would still be safe under this law.

12) From Sec. 274A: “The Secretary, in cooperation with the Commissioner of Social Security, shall implement an Electronic Employment Verification System…to determine whether--(A) the identifying information submitted by an individual is consistent with the information maintained by the Secretary or the Commissioner of Social Security; and (B) such individual is eligible for employment in the United States…..The Secretary shall require all employers in the United States to participate in the System, with respect to all employees hired by the employer on or after the date that is 18 months after the date that not less than $400,000,000 have been appropriated and made available to implement this subsection.” That’s $400 million that will have to be spent, to start making sure we all have our papers in order. This is in a system managed and maintained by the federal government, in order to have the legal right to work. Might this be money ill-spent? Hopefully, our senators will have sufficient time to ponder this one tiny detail of the 790 page bill.

Brian Doherty is a senior editor of reason.

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