Senator Hatch Introduces GOP Immigration Bill

Republicans now have their own CIR measure, introduced last week by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). According to the Salt Lake City Examiner, the Hatch bill would clamp down on border security and illegal immigration, and impose strict new limits on immigrant eligibility for social safety net benefits. (See Utah’s Senator Hatch Proposes Federal Immigration Bill, Stresses Enforcement, by Alison Peek, Salt Lake City Examiner, 30.Sep.2010.)

As Senator Hatch noted in his press release, his measure would not only extend the controversial 287(g) and Secure Communities programs – it actually would require eligible states and localities to join in these initiatives, or lose federal subsidy for incarcerated illegal aliens. (See Hatch Introduces Bill to Tackle Key Immigration Woes Plaguing U.S., Utah, Press Release from the office of Senator Orrin Hatch, 30.Sep.2010.) Critics have charged that section 287(g) agreements – which allow state and local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law, subject to ICE supervision – ultimately make state and local police forces less effective, by enmeshing them in immigration enforcement to the detriment of their local law-enforcement responsibilities. The Secure Communities program – touted as a means to identify and rid our streets of dangerous criminal aliens – has been assailed for allegedly promoting racial profiling and for indiscriminately scooping up aliens guilty of only minor offenses.

The Hatch bill contains several other provisions that are likely to be popular on the Republican side of the aisle. The crown jewel is the sweeping prohibition of “mass paroles” or anything else that might be construed as amnesty for unauthorized immigrants. According to Senator Hatch’s office, his bill would “specify that illegal aliens may only be paroled or granted deferred action on a case-by-case basis; mass paroles and deferrals would be prohibited.” This provision appears intended to prevent President Obama from attempting to provide administrative relief to undocumented immigrants, as the GOP has alleged he plans to do. (See MurthyBlog, The Hill: President Not Planning Administrative Version of CIR, 02.Oct.2010.)

Other provisions take their cues from the popular (albeit mistaken) belief that a rich trove of benefits awaits any illegal immigrant who can find his or her way across the border. According to Senator Hatch’s own press release, his bill would “place limits on states’ ability to receive federal funds to provide Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to cover children and pregnant women who are not U.S. citizens. It would also direct the Health and Human Services Secretary to submit a yearly report to Congress on the total dollar amount of federal welfare benefits received by households of illegal aliens in each state and the District of Columbia, as well as the overall dollars the states spend on welfare benefits.”

The Hatch bill also would do away with the Diversity Visa program, unless the State Department recommends steps to help Congress root out the fraud and abuse that Senator Hatch claims is rife in the DV program. As he introduced the bill on the Senate floor, Senator Hatch explained, “Let me be clear: if anyone is a proponent of a diverse nation, one that enjoys the influence of many cultures, it is me. But what we have right now in the visa lottery program does not accomplish that intended purpose.” He did not elaborate on this purported failure.

The Hatch measure brooks no bipartisanship, and appears to be intended more as a statement of GOP policy preferences than a measure capable of passage. However, if the outcome of the mid-term elections is as predicted, these same GOP policies may set the terms of debate over any future CIR legislation. The take-home message seems to be this: don’t count on comprehensive immigration reform emerging from the lame duck session this November.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.