A new bipartisan immigration bill to be officially unveiled this week offers a comprehensive plan for immigration reform — but includes stringent border-security and general enforcement measures that seem doomed to fail.
The Huffington Post reported that “the [immigration] bill is expected to provide a 13-year path to citizenship for people living here illegally who qualify,” yet this would only occur after a new border-security plan is put in place.
In addition, the bill aims to have employers adopt electronic verification systems to monitor their workers’ statuses as well as have a new electronic system guarding the border, airports and seaports to track those with temporary visas.
This proposal includes holes, costly measures, as well as several goals that might not be possible to implement within the timeframe.
One goal in the proposal is to get the U.S.-Mexico border under 100 percent surveillance and to catch 90 percent of those who cross illegally. However, this country has struggled to monitor even 50 percent of the border.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Department of Homeland Security reported in 2012 that it only covered about 44 percent of the border. In light of that, attempting to achieve 100-percent surveillance of the border in 13 years is completely unrealistic.
Not to mention that gauging the efficacy of border security is a tricky beast in of itself. “It is hard to know if apprehension rates are tallied accurately. You can detect something and not know for certain if it turned back or if it got past you. That’s what makes it a really tough challenge,” Thad Bingel, a former Customs and Border Protection official, said to The Wall Street Journal.
Another complication in the proposal is that it has not yet established what areas of the border are defined as “high risk.” How can enforcement occur when no one knows where to focus the efforts?
An additional goal in the proposal is expanding and enforcing employers to use a now-voluntary electronic verification system, E-Verify, to screen workers.
But according to the American Civil Liberties Union, “E-Verify could quickly create a de facto national ID system containing detailed data on everyone authorized to work in America. Your name, photo, driver’s license information, social security number, phone number, email address, employer, industry and country of birth could all be verified through a system accessible over the Internet.”
Though it has its upsides, E-Verify is a controversial system that would penetrate an individual’s right to privacy and it is not always accurate — which could create unnecessary barriers for those who legitimately seek employment.
Meeting all the goals could take more than a decade. So what will happen to those who enter the country illegally? Only those who passed a criminal background check, have paid a fine and met other conditions would receive probationary status. Activists and advocates of illegal immigrants are worried that this legislation would create more obstacles than solutions in the path to citizenship.
“It raises the question of whether it’s actually achievable, and whether it will end up thwarting the path to citizenship for 11 million people,” Frank Sharry, executive director of the group America’s Voice, told The Wall Street Journal.
How will the nation determine whether the border is “secure?” How many fences, resources, enforcement, technology and taxpayer dollars will it take to implement this proposal? How will the success of “border security” be measured? How much will immigrants pay in fees and fines for this legislation? What will ensue if the measures are not met within the timeframe?
These are all realistic questions that have yet to be answered by this idealistic proposal.
Elizabeth Cutbirth is a junior majoring in creative writing.