President Bush sought to reassure conservatives this morning that a new immigration bill would provide for much more effective enforcement, as he endorsed a new plan to devote as much as $4.4 billion in annual fees raised by the legislation to bolster border security and prevent illegal immigrants from being hired in workplaces.
"We're going to show the American people that the promises in this bill will be kept," Bush told members of the Associated Builders and Contractors gathered for a conference downtown.
By endorsing the plan by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the president was sending another signal that conservatives should rethink their opposition to the comprehensive immigration bill, which remains stalemated in the Senate.
Bush's remarks also seemed to answer the call of some GOP senators for the White House to send up a bill providing for up to $10 billion to $15 billion in additional funding for border security before the Senate takes up the immigration bill again. It was not immediately clear whether the president's offer would satisfy conservatives.
$10 billion? I got your $10 billion right here. Simply revise the probationary Z-visa provision in the immigration bill thusly:
All illegal residents of the US (all individuals, not only heads of households) are required, within 90 days of the bill signing, to report to the US Customs and Immigration Service, register and obtain a biometric identification card, pay a fine of $1,000 and pay "bail" of $4,000. Upon registration and payment of the fine and bail, the illegal resident alien obtains a probationary Z-visa and is legally allowed to work as long as he or she continues to follow the processes to clear back tax debts and pass a background check. The bail may be refunded to the individual if he or she chooses to leave the US prior to applying for citizenship; if the individual does not apply for citizenship within five years, the bail will be forfeited and the individual may be subject to deportation. Any illegal resident alien not wishing to register and pay up may avoid doing so by leaving the country, but must obtain an exit visa with biometric identification -- a record that will identify them as a former illegal resident alien if ever they attempt to re-enter the US. Any illegal resident alien who neither registers and pays to stay nor registers and leaves will be presumed guilty (the same way a blood alcohol level of .08 is presumptive proof of guilt) of felony evasion of immigration controls and subject to a prison term and fines, similar to the penalties set forth in the bill for coyotes and document forgers.
These provisions force the illegal resident aliens out of the shadows and into the sunlight. Any who do not choose to get right with the immigration laws will be outlaws and subject to arrest, fines, imprisonment and deportation. Given the choice of getting a pass to stay in the US legally or going underground as a wanted felon, I think only the truly bad actors will choose the latter.
You can expect easily 10 million illegal resident aliens to take the Z-visa offer: at $1,000 each, that's $10 billion in fines upfront, plus tens of billions more in "bail money" and back taxes over the transition from bill signing to full implementation. So my plan is not only fiscally sound, but it separates the "good" illegal resident aliens who are here for economic and political freedom from the "bad" ones who have other ideas.
Key to making this plan work is eliminating "sanctuary laws" and requiring aggressive internal enforcement to find and round up those "bad" aliens. There should be no excuse not to do this, as any illegal resident aliens who didn't have bad intentions or a dodgy background would have ample incentive to register or leave.
And if advocacy groups worry about the ability of illegal resident aliens to come up with the cash upfront to register, the bill can provide for sponsorships by US citizens who are willing to lend the money to an illegal resident alien and share in that alien's legal obligations to fulfill the rest of the normalization process. The sponsors would individually have to put more than just money where their mouth is: as persons vouching for the good character and intentions of their sponsorees, they would be legally liable if those sponsorees fell short of their legal obligations.