There are some good provisions in the Senate bill. The bill replaces the H-2A agriculture visa that has not worked with a much more workable system, affecting the 40 percent of dairy workers in Wisconsin who are immigrants. It also increases the caps for high-skilled workers, allowing this country to better compete in today’s global economy. The bill mandates E-Verify for the first time and takes important steps to clear today’s backlog, ending the ability to work here illegally and significantly easing the process to come to this country legally. However, much work remains.
My bottom line in deciding whether or not I support this bill has always been that it must solve the problem. Unfortunately, I’ve come to the conclusion that it will not. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reaches this same conclusion in its evaluation of the underlying bill, finding that the bill will only reduce illegal immigration by 25 percent. That means an estimated 7.5 million more illegal immigrants will come to this country by 2033, recreating the uncertainty and fear in the next generation of children whose parents decide to come here illegally or overstay their visas.
It’s not surprising that CBO reached this conclusion when you look at the amount of money we are spending on safety net benefits and other costs associated with this bill. CBO estimates that the bill will increase federal direct spending by $262 billion over the next 10 years. Most of those outlays would be for increases in refundable tax credits and in spending on health care programs for non U.S. citizens. That is why I introduced an amendment to prevent noncitizens from accessing the Earned Income Tax Credit. This amendment did not even get a vote, despite that fact that a recent National Journal poll found that 77 percent of all Americans oppose making newly legalized immigrants “eligible for government benefits . . . before they become citizens.”
So…after much weeping and gnashing of teeth, the Senate version of this bill passed. Just like we knew it would. And the border security in it sucks. Just like we knew it would. Now it will go to the House where, after the farm bill vote especially, you have to think the GOP just isn’t in the mood for letting this version of it see the light of day. In fact, everything is pretty much proceeding as we all knew it would, yet EVERYBODY IS FREAKING OUT.