Each house of the US Congress passed bills in the past weeks. These will now be negotiated into a final bill which will be presented to the president to sign into law. Quite a bit of confusion and rhetoric exists, largely because the bills represent several hundred pages each (the Senate bill is over 600 pages).
The US Border Patrol doubled in size from 1995 and 2005 and is now at least 11,500 agents. More than 6,000 new agents are proposed, along with even more staff. This might result in as many as 12,000 new Border Patrol and border control personnel. Many experts and critics are arguing that the build-up hasn't done much good, and that continued build-up probably won't be very effective.
The reasoning is that as long as there are jobs available to illegals in the US, people will continue to come into the country illegally.Sealing the borders on a country the size of the US will be virtually impossible, so provisions are being negotiated to shut off the available jobs.
A bill passed by the Senate on Thursday calls for holding employers accountable with maximum fines of $20,000 for each illegal worker hired and possible jail time for repeat offenders. The House bill proposes up to $40,000 fines. Both bills also call for jail time, especially for repeat offenders.
A spokesman for the Center for Immigration Studies, John Keeley, asks why there has been no call to dramatically increase the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel at job sites in the United States. "Border resources can't be the exclusive focus of Congress or the administration," he said. "The magnet for illegal immigration in the United States is the widespread availability of jobs."
ICE's enforcement staff for the entire nation outside the border areas is only about 200, he said, and Bush's 2007 budget only calls for 200 more.
Both the Senate and House bills call for increased accountability and investigation into companies hiring illegals, but it appears to be nearly a forgotten issue, gaining little news coverage or discussion.
Amnesty for people currently in the US illegally is a very hot topic. Some people, George Bush among them, are calling for a 'path toward citizenship' for some illegal immigrants who would qualify. Qualifications seem to hinge upon paying back taxes and fines, and having no serious criminal record. Also, people having entered the US more than two years ago and less than five would be required to leave the country and reapply for entry (under the Senate bill). People entering the US less than two years ago would be required to leave.
For a number of interests, this is considered a reward for illegal activity and they oppose it. The highly conservative Heritage Foundation published a report last week that estimated up to 108 million people could be added to the US population within 20 years.Largely debunked as inaccurate, the report was nevertheless used during debate in the Senate last week to harden certain rules. For one example, the proposed "guest worker visa" limit was lowered from 320,000 to 200,000 approved annually.
For comparison, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the Senate bill would increase the U.S. population by 8 million residents by 2016.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan offered amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants in the US. It is now being viewed that this is rewarding the activity, so many politicians are opposed to the idea. Most other people are willing to consider it so long as it is done carefully this time.