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Dobbs: Senate bill raises serious questions

By Lou Dobbs
CNN

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United States
Government
Lou Dobbs

NEW YORK -- Republican and Democratic senators Thursday morning took turns in front of television cameras congratulating themselves and their esteemed colleagues for reaching a compromise on illegal immigration reform.

Instead of patting each other on the back, the senators should be answering a host of questions raised in their new initiative. As Sen. Patrick Leahy said this morning, "The devil's always in the details, and we'll see what those details are." If Sen. Leahy and his colleagues don't even know the details, just how much trouble do you suppose we're all in?

I've said for some time that any immigration overhaul must be humane, reasonable and effective. The test for effective reform is straightforward: Congress and the president cannot reform immigration if the federal government cannot control it, and the federal government cannot control immigration unless it first secures our borders and our ports. Any legislation that fails to meet those tests will only worsen what is already a crisis.

The Hagel/Martinez Amendment splits the millions of illegal aliens in this country into three groups: those who have lived illegally in this country for five years or more; between two and five years, and less than two years. Each group will face a different procedural fate, but this legislation clears the path to legal status and eventual citizenship for all of the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal immigrants in this country.

This amendment, however, generates more questions than answers: Congress estimates that there are 11 million illegal aliens living and working in this country. But how do they know? The answer is they don't. None of us does.

What if Congress is underestimating the number of illegal aliens by half? A Bear Stearns study last year projects there are as many as 20 million illegal aliens living in the United States, depressing wages for U.S. citizens and draining local, state and federal budgets of much-needed funds for education, health care and social services.

How will illegal aliens prove that they've lived here for more than five years, or more than two years? If they've come here illegally and worked off the books since arriving, what do they do to prove that? How do they demonstrate they've paid taxes and supported their families, that they've been good citizens?

I'm most concerned about the mechanisms in this legislation that will enforce any of these measures and whether they will help actually control illegal immigration. What government agencies will be involved with enforcing this plan and what assurances do the American people have that they're even capable of performing these tasks?

Ultimately, however, this deal appears to fail the first test: border security. Because as I've said, and as many others agree, without first securing our borders, not even the best intentions will result in resolution of our illegal alien crisis.

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