Another effort to tie the legalization of unauthorized immigrants to new border-security measures may be discussed this week if the Senate considers Senator Cornyn’s RESULTS amendment to S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. This 134-page amendment revises the entire structure of border and interior enforcement in the bill, and would delay the legalization provisions of the bill if new enforcement metrics are not met.
What the amendment does: The RESULTS amendment would not allow formerly unauthorized immigrants with Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status to adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status until, no earlier than 9 years and 6 months after the date of the bill’s enactment, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection certify to Congress and the President that they have achieved and maintained “operational control” and “full situational awareness” of the entire Southern border for at least 12 months leading up to certification; implemented a mandatory employment verification system; and implemented a biometric entry and exit data system at all airports and seaports. “Operational control” is defined as an effectiveness rate of at least 90 percent in stopping unauthorized border crossings, while “full situational awareness” is defined as 100 percent surveillance of the border.
Does the amendment get us closer to the goal of fixing the broken immigration system?
The RESULTS amendment ties the fate of unauthorized immigrants who are already living in the United States, and who have applied for legalization, to the success of highly stringent border-enforcement measures in deterring future unauthorized immigration. However, applicants for legalization have no control over the ability of the federal government to maintain the integrity of U.S. borders, so there is no logical reason to link their legal status to border-enforcement metrics. The RESULTS amendment also mistakenly views immigration reform as a two-step process: enforcement, followed by legalization. However, the various components of immigration reform must be implemented simultaneously to maximize their effectiveness. The amendment breaks apart what should by a single, integrated revamping of U.S. immigration policy. Finally, the RESULTS amendment contains no mechanism for judging the feasibility or cost-effectiveness of the border-security measures and metrics that it would mandate.