Way past due, but hey, at least it’s SOMETHING.
The Bush administration on Friday will announce plans to enlist state and local law enforcement in cracking down on illegal immigrants, which previously was largely a federal function, according to congressional sources.
The administration is unveiling a series of tough border control and employer enforcement measures designed to make up for security provisions that failed when Congress rejected a broad rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws in June. The plans are scheduled to be announced at 10:30 a.m. by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez.
Details were provided to Capitol Hill on Thursday. As part of the new measures, the secretary of Homeland Security will deliver regular “State of the Border” reports beginning this fall.
In one of the most interesting revelations, the plans call for the administration to “train growing numbers of state and local law enforcement officers to identify and detain immigration offenders whom they encounter in the course of daily law enforcement,” according to a summary provided to The Politico by a congressional source.
“By this fall, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will have quintupled the number of enforcement teams devoted to removing fugitive aliens (from 15 to 75 in less than three years),” the summary says.
The announcement is aimed at restoring President Bush’s credibility with conservatives who were dismayed that he pushed so hard for broad immigration reform, including a guest worker program for people now here illegally, before the border was more secure.
“The biggest message that emerged from this failed immigration bill is that if immigration reform is to happen in the future, they must first restore the American people’s confidence that the federal government is serious about securing our borders and enforcing our immigration laws,” said a Senate Republican leadership official. “Frankly, this should have been addressed several years ago.”
As part of the package, Bush is planning to increase muscle at the Mexican border, as conservatives have long pleaded. “The administration will add more border personnel and infrastructure, going beyond previously announced targets,” according to the summary. “The Departments of State and Homeland Security will expand the list of international gangs whose members are automatically denied admission to the U.S.”
Employers will face tough new scrutiny and requirements. “There are now 29 categories of documents that employers must accept to establish identity and work eligibility among their workers,” the summary says. “The Department of Homeland Security will reduce that number and weed out the most insecure.”
“The Department of Homeland Security will raise the civil fines imposed on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants by approximately 25 percent,” the summary continues. “The administration will continue its aggressive expansion of criminal investigations against employers who knowingly hire large numbers of illegal aliens.”
The administration is promising to reduce processing times for immigration background checks by adding agents and converting paper documentation to electronic forms. And the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration say they will study and report on the technical and recordkeeping changes necessary to deny credit in our Social Security system for illegal work.
Under the tougher menu, the administration vows to fund additional beds for people caught breaching the border, ensuring that illegal entrants are returned to Mexico rather than being let go because there’s no space for them, as often occurred in the past.
“The administration will implement an exit requirement at airports and seaports by the end of 2008, and will launch a pilot land-border exit system for guest workers,” the summary says. “By the end of 2008, the administration will require most arrivals at our ports-of-entry to use passports or similarly secure documents.”
Other elements of the package:
—The Department of Labor will reform the H-2A agriculture worker program so farmers can readily hire legal temporary workers, while protecting their rights.
—The Department of Labor will issue regulations streamlining the H-2B program for non-agricultural seasonal workers.
—The Department of Homeland Security will extend, from one year to three, the length of the NAFTA-created TN visa for professional workers from Canada and Mexico, removing the administrative hassle of annual renewals for these talented workers.
—The Office of Citizenship will unveil in September a revised naturalization test that emphasizes fundamentals of American democracy, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.
—The Office of Citizenship will introduce a Web-based electronic training program and convene eight regional training conferences for volunteers and adult educators who lead immigrants through the naturalization process.
—The Department of Education will develop a free, Web-based model to help immigrants learn English.