Lipinski Votes Against Amnesty Bill

Today, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03) voted against the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, H.R. 5281, because it provides amnesty for some illegal immigrants, thereby inviting more illegal immigration and harming American workers. The House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 216-198.

“If you look past the rhetoric, you will find that this bill would allow upwards of 2 million people who are in this country illegally to become citizens,” Congressman Lipinski said. “As a result, it will encourage more people to enter our country illegally, compete for all-too-scarce jobs, and drive down wages for struggling American workers. At the same time, it does nothing to increase the security of our borders. To its everlasting credit, America has been a land of freedom, tolerance, and opportunity for generations of immigrants, who in turn have enriched its culture, society, and economy. But that does not mean we should reward those who come here illegally while countless others patiently abide by our laws and await their turn for legal entry. However well-intentioned this legislation may be, it is an unwise policy whose long-term consequences will be detrimental to the health of our nation.

“I sympathize with the plight of those who were brought here illegally as children and have worked hard to educate and better themselves. But passing this bill will only encourage more parents – who know very well what they are doing and the risks to which they are subjecting their children – to come here illegally, placing more children in the same situation.”

Under H.R. 5281, individuals who are illegally present in the United States for the five years prior to the bill’s enactment and who entered the country before age 16 would be eligible for conditional legal status if they graduate high school or receive a GED. They would then be eligible to become permanent residents if they spend just two years in college – the bill does not require graduation or set academic standards beyond maintaining “good standing.” Alternatively, they would be eligible to become permanent residents if they spend two years in the Armed Forces – less service than is required for ROTC scholarship recipients, for instance. Thus, under the bill, relatively brief stints in college or the military would enable illegal immigrants to stay in the country and compete for jobs for 10 years or possibly longer. After that, they could become permanent residents, allowing them to qualify for benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps, and then apply for full citizenship.

The bill does not specify what constitutes proof of having lived in the country for at least five years, opening the process to abuse from the beginning. At the opposite end of the process, those who become citizens would be able to petition for the entry of family members, providing an incentive for parents to enter the country illegally with their children. In addition, by granting conditional legal status to illegal immigrants, the bill would enable them to receive taxpayer-subsidized federal student loans for which they would otherwise be ineligible. The bill also includes a loophole allowing for extensions of conditional legal status in cases where removal from the United States would constitute an “extremely unusual hardship,” a phrase that is left open to interpretation. Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office found that the Senate version of the legislation would increase deficits by at least $5 billion starting in 2021.

Studies have shown that it is precisely the most vulnerable American workers whose wages suffer the most as a result of illegal immigration. These workers already face extremely high unemployment due to the recession and are having difficulty making ends meet.

Supporters claim the legislation would not encourage further illegal immigration because it only applies to individuals who have been in the country for the five years prior to enactment. But the bill clearly sets a precedent, raising the likelihood that another such measure would be passed in the future, especially since there is no increased border security or internal enforcement contained in the bill.

“In the years since amnesty was granted to illegal immigrants in 1986, illegal immigration has soared, and there are now an estimated 12 million people living illegally in our country,” Congressman Lipinski said. “A policy that fails to learn from this history is doomed to repeat it. We need to defend American workers, not force them to compete in a race to the bottom with people who have violated our laws.”

The bill was brought to the floor using an unusual maneuver that eliminated any opportunity to offer amendments. Congressman Lipinski voted against considering the bill under this rule.

(December 8, 2010)