U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) today announced his opposition to a rushed, nearly 1,200 page amendment that rewrites the immigration legislation before the Senate, without addressing several key concerns.
"I recognize our system is broken but the solution begins with border security so we aren't back in this same spot a decade from now," Johanns said. "Unfortunately, this amendment's promise of secure borders is not airtight. Additionally, several organizations representing our border agents and related personnel say this bill weakens national security and prevents them from doing their jobs.
"I've always believed in a trust but verify policy. This nearly 1,200 page rewrite allows the Administration to simply verify with itself the border is secure and the backlog of those wishing to come here legally is cleared. Where's the verify in that?
"The problems don't end there. Illegal immigrants would be rewarded almost immediately with legal status and taxpayer benefits. Nebraska taxpayers reject the idea of allowing access to hundreds of billions of dollars in benefits to people who broke the law, while hardworking families struggle to make ends meet."
The Corker-Hoeven amendment was introduced Friday evening as a complete substitute to the legislation the Senate has been considering for the past two weeks. The Majority Leader immediately filed a procedural motion to cut off debate and block amendments to this nearly 1,200 page piece of legislation.
Below are some of Johanns' concerns with the amendment:
* While the amendment requires additional border security measures before green cards are issued, it contains an exception allowing the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive those measures if any are stymied due to litigation at the end of the first 10-year window.
* Illegal immigrants are almost immediately eligible for temporary legal status.
* The $46.3 billion for border security is mandatory funding, but the amendment only requires $8.3 billion of that from fees, leaving taxpayers on the hook for $38 billion.
* There is no process for Congress to approve or validate that the border security triggers have been met prior to illegal immigrants receiving green cards and, as noted above, the triggers can be waived if litigation stymies one or more of them.
* The amendment specifically says that blue card agriculture workers and illegal immigrants with temporary legal status will not be eligible for Obamacare health insurance subsidies. However, they may be eligible for Medicaid and other benefits like tax credits, food stamps and education assistance because the bill leaves eligibility requirements up to interpretation by the Administration. The Congressional Budget Office estimated these costs at $259 billion over the next 10 years, and that they would "triple" in the following 10 years. There is no mechanism in the bill to ensure that unexpected future costs in this bill would be paid for.
* Language to make the employer verification system more robust and fight identity theft was not included in the amendment.
* The unions representing immigration and border patrol agents say the legislation makes the current immigration system worse, will damage public safety, and should be opposed.
* The bill only contains a small paragraph that indicates the Secretary of State must certify that all outstanding approved petitions for visas received prior to passage of the bill have been processed before illegal immigrants with temporary status can become permanent residents.