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COMMENTARY: Panel studies new 'trigger' on immigration

by San Antonio Express-News on July 28, 2013 2:20 AM

The bipartisan group of U.S. House members working on its version of comprehensive immigration reform has reportedly come up with a different “trigger” for citizenship.

This involves E-Verify, the electronic system for employers to confirm workers have legal residency. Mostly, these triggers have focused on securing the border, where extensive security measures already are in place.

Under the proposal, E-Verify would have to be operational after five years. If it isn’t, immigrants would be bumped out of “probation” and revert to undocumented status.

This was reported by Greg Sargent of the Washington Post last week.

This E-Verify component, at least, has the virtue of addressing the problem at a more critical point — in the workplace, giving employers the tools so that they can no longer claim that they “unknowingly” hired a person with no legal right to a job.

As long as jobs are available — and employers can evade legal responsibility for hiring those without papers — undocumented immigrants will come. And stay.

The border security measure in the Senate plan would cost $30 billion to nearly double the number of Border Patrol agents. It would also build 700 miles of fence.

This, though the country has already doubled the number of Border Patrol agents since 2005, spends more on border security than other federal law enforcement endeavors combined and net migration has dwindled to about net zero.

Politics drive this yen for border security, the need to give Republicans cover so that they can claim they are “getting tough” on immigration. ...

What does operational mean? And if this “admission” means fewer of the 11 million estimated undocumented workers here step forward, it will be counterproductive.

Why, after all, step forward if there is a chance you will have set yourself up for deportation if E-Verify isn’t “operational?”

Still, the approach has more promise than border security, which can most charitably be described as pork whose only saving grace is that it gives some members cover to do the right thing.

We await details and, should the plan even get through the House, we are hopeful that a conference committee with the Senate will iron out the differences to the common good.

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