DACA Doublespeak

In an extraordinary move last week, President Trump brought congressional leaders to the White House for a vigorous discussion of immigration policy. What made the moment so remarkable is that the meeting—in a departure from the usual swampy Washington gesture reserved for scripted talking points and meaningless photo opportunities—was substantial and it was televised.

For nearly an hour, Trump and congressional leaders engaged in actual policy negotiation, in front of the nation (or at least anyone who bothered to tune in).

The format, while groundbreaking, still provided a forum for classic Washington doublespeak about immigration.

Democrats demanded a “clean” bill for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and a “pathway to citizenship.” For their part, Republicans nodded enthusiastically about “enhanced border security” and an “end to chain migration.”

But what does it all mean really? As previous immigration reform efforts have taught us, trust but verify. It’s important to know exactly what constitutes, say, “enhanced border security” before signing off on the measure.

Remember the “Gang of Eight” bill from 2013? The legislation contained meaningless border security measures that were trumpeted as border enforcement. It even had the phrase “border security” in the title!

In the interest of not being fooled again, here are the Washington buzzwords to look out for in the current DACA debate.

“Clean DACA bill.” Sounds great, right? So great that President Trump almost unwittingly agreed to it at Tuesday’s meeting, before Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) intervened. But for Conservatives, this is a nonstarter. A “clean” bill means that DACA recipients get amnesty for free. Congress will change no policies or institute any reforms. We can safely call this the worst outcome for Americans with a genuine desire to secure our borders.

“Ending chain migration.” Chain migration is the program that allows immigrants already residing in the United States to bring over members of their immediate and extended families. This doubles, sometimes triples, the impact of immigration. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, recent new immigrants sponsored an average of 3.45 family members for U.S. residence. The president has demanded an end to chain migration for all categories of immigration in exchange for a deal on DACA, however, some are discussing banning the practice just for DACA recipients. The bottom line? When you see a bill promoted as “ending chain migration,” your first question should be “for whom”?

“Enhanced border security.” As we’ve seen in previous immigration debates, Democrats and moderate Republicans will toss a few more dollars into a border patrol account and tout it as “enhanced border security,” while it’s actually completely ineffective. Don’t be fooled by the shiny label; border security is where Conservatives are most often bought off by watered-down promises that never materialize. Truly enhanced border security measures will include a mix of strong border security and interior enforcement: ending sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants, deputizing states to enforce immigration laws, ending catch-and-release, mandating exit-entry visa tracking, and authorizing a border wall, to name a few.

“Border wall.” On the campaign trail, Trump famously pledged to build a wall along the southern border and to make Mexico pay for it. But Trump wasn’t the first to suggest this. Congress authorized a wall along the southern border in 2006. Many Democrats even voted for it. But the funding needed to complete the barrier never materialized. Any promises of “the wall” in exchange for a DACA deal must include a hard trigger that forces congressional funding. For example, commentator Daniel Horowitz suggests barring any new renewals of DACA until 850 miles of double-layered fence has been completed. Congress should not be allowed to take credit for “authorizing” the construction of a border wall. They actually have to get it paid for, too. 

Path to citizenship.” This buzzword, along with “special path to citizenship,” “legalization,” and others are often used to mask policy that is simply amnesty. Recall that the 2013 Gang of Eight bill hid its amnesty provisions behind the phrase “registered provisional” status. It wasn’t amnesty, backers argued, because the legal status it was conferring was only temporary. The problem? The legality was immediate, and the process ended in legal permanent residency. The 2013 bill also came up with a fancy “blue card” system to grant work authorization and lawful status to illegal agricultural workers—again, amnesty by another name. Congress can try to dress it up and call it something else, but there is only one word for proposals that grant legal status to those here illegally: amnesty.

That the debate over immigration reform has become this disoriented and confusing speaks to just how complex and controversial this issue has become.

True concern for securing America’s borders, however, is far simpler. Any immigration reform must prioritize strong and meaningful border protections and a respect for the rule of law—which means a total prohibition on amnesty, and a just and enforceable immigration system that protects the rights and dignity of all Americans.

About Rachel Bovard

Rachel Bovard is senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute and Senior Advisor to the Internet Accountability Project. Beginning in 2006, she served in both the House and Senate in various roles including as legislative director for Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and policy director for the Senate Steering Committee under the successive chairmanships of Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), where she advised Committee members on strategy related to floor procedure and policy matters. In the House, she worked as senior legislative assistant to Congressman Donald Manzullo (R-Il.), and Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas). She is the former director of policy services for the Heritage Foundation. Follow her on Twitter at @RachelBovard.

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6 responses to “DACA Doublespeak”

  1. You forgot to mention the most important thing — the one almost no one talks about: MANDATORY nationwide E-Verify — with tough, IRS-style enforcement. Most illegals come to work. If they know they can’t work, most won’t come. If they continue to be able to get jobs, the flow of illegal labor (and their children) will continue unabated no matter what else our leaders do. The only question that matters is: Are our politicians determined to maintain the supply of “cheap” (meaning taxpayer-subsidized) labor for the benefit of their corporate-employer donors? We all need to ask them that.

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  2. Rethinking Immigration

    The present immigration issue is as big an issue as was the decision to invade Iraq. It divides
    rather than unites the country. Rather than continue fueling it with
    the heated rhetoric of politics and the impending elections, we need a
    breather. Step back and let “our better angels” work on a solution. The
    problem needs to be parsed into separate actionable pieces and

    Begin with the economic. The demand for labor here in the
    U.S., and the price industries are willing to pay for it, defies the
    control systems presently installed. The magnet of economic opportunity
    here is just too strong to hold back the foreign workforce yearning for
    opportunity. U.S. industries want what these foreign workers offer
    – labor at prices that allow them to profit, compete economically,
    survive, and grow. The present trade in illegal drugs mirrors the immigrant
    industry. Many want it, and get it, despite massive expenditures by
    government to save U.S. consumers from following their “evil angels.”

    few facts. To cross the border, traffickers in illegal workers,
    “coyotes” to the cognoscenti, are charging $7,500 to $10,000 per
    passage. For that, an “illegal” needs to travel perhaps a month to the
    border, cross rivers in rafts when most do not know how to swim, suffer
    trailer rides of packed humanity for days without food or facilities,
    walk across deserts, and risk their entire enterprise only to be
    frustrated by a diligent border patrol. That kind of a motivated worker
    is to die for.

    On the other hand, U.S.
    industries present a demand for workers not readily available in sufficient numbers at the
    wages they are offering to U.S. citizens. An unemployed American is not
    prepared to give up his leisure, poor and substandard as the “safety
    net” assures,
    for the pay illegals are accepting. It isn’t much, but $10 to $15 an
    hour is a lot better than the $3 to $5 a day back home. Recognize also
    that, in addition, the 4 to 8 percent of the U.S. workforce defined as
    unemployed just don’t have the motivation to do the hard work that
    immigrants are willing to accept at the risk of losing their lives and
    meager fortune. Put another way, if you build a barrier, the “illegals”
    and an enterprising American industry will beat it.

    to do. First, re-frame the question. How do we meet the demand for
    labor here without increasing unemployment or a reduction in wages? A
    simple answer is to limit supply (immigrants) as unemployment increases,
    say, above 6 percent. There are multiple markets with different
    demands and wage rates for workers with skills. The system for
    authorizing the number of immigrant visas can respond by authorizing
    visas by skill and wage rate.

    Say that there
    is a market value for permission to immigrate to the U.S. (There is,
    witness what illegals are willing to pay already.) Say further that a
    market for buying and selling visas to the U.S. is legally recognized
    and monitored.. A potential immigrant or employer could bid for a
    worker visa(s). The supply of visas would be based on the demand by
    skill for workers manifested by U.S. industries without triggering wage
    reductions or increased unemployment. This needs elaboration, but you
    get the idea.

    Interestingly, were a market for
    visas to exist, those already in line for visas could be compensated by
    giving them a priority claim for a visa under the market system. They
    could have the option of selling their position in line to late
    arrivals. Those presently illegal in the U.S.could bid for a visa to
    become legal entries from those in the front of the line.

    take on the security issue. Of all the misdirected issues and proposed
    legislation, this one takes the cake. Here we have the government
    defending the ramparts of the border(s) while any terrorist with an I.Q.
    of 50 can circumvent it. Come as a tourist. Come as a student. Those
    types of visas can be had. Remember that all of the terrorist that
    acted out their fervor on both World Trade Center attacks got into the
    country legally.

    And what about all those terrorist already in the country, many of them home grown? There are those like the domestic Kansas City
    terrorists, the environmental terrorist of today, the anarchy terrorist
    of the 60’s, even criminal “terrorist” working the
    streets selling killer drugs, and violent sex. Our response to these
    types of terrorist groups is to look away and wait for them to act
    before we harness our domestic protective services to seek them out.

    to the point, we actually seek to disarm our security systems in key
    ways by making it difficult or impossible for them to seek out such
    cells using profiling systems that work on existing data mining
    technology to scan for groups or individuals that have behavior patterns
    of criminal terrorists. Our paranoia over the protection of privacy is
    such that we will not let government do what private industry already
    does on their own with impunity.

    Think of
    it. We distrust our government which we own and can mandate, but give
    a free hand to all other organizations. You think this isn’t’ true?
    Well check out the information that marketing
    organizations have on your consumer behavior. Check out the financial
    records credit organizations and your bank have on your economic value.
    Check out what political operatives have on your voting behavior,
    registration, and past record of contributions. Hell, go to the
    internet and google your name. You’d be “surprised” how public your
    life is. But allow government to pursue terrorist using these existing
    data bases, and you, the media, and politicians go bonkers. Our
    paranoia over privacy is not only illusory, it is crippling our efforts
    to protect us from terrorist and the common criminal.

    a moment, think of the information the government holds and retains in
    its files on you as an individual. It has your income and tax
    statements from the time you began working. It knows where you worked
    and where you lived. It has your criminal record if you have one.
    Medicaid and Medicare, it knows who your doctor is, what treatments
    you’ve received, and the medicines you take. But this data cannot be
    accessed legally for purposes other than for the service it was set up
    to serve. Actually, there are specific exceptions authorized by
    law. Tracking on fathers defaulting on child support is one of them.
    There should be more.

    Why we won’t use these
    data for identifying and tracking criminals and terrorists is a monument
    to our exaggerated paranoia. I mean, come on! Those charged with
    keeping publicly maintained files have a remarkable record of
    successfully limiting their access. They have developed systems for
    identifying when they are accessed illegally and by whom. And the law
    allows the government to come down hard on violators with jail sentences
    and fines. So effective have been such safeguards that the private
    sector has
    had to develop entire systems that duplicate that which public systems
    had already. Your credit report is an example, .

    we need is to “get over it.” Information on Individuals isn’t and
    never was private. What we need to do is to authorize government to
    access and expand their use of existing machine readable data for the
    purpose of searching out terrorist and criminal elements, among other uses. We need to go
    further. To facilitate these authorized uses, it is critical that a
    national identification system be established.

    need for a national identification system is needed not just for
    purposes of security. Other uses become possible and could be
    authorized. Obviously the system could allow for the registration of
    permanent or temporary immigrants, and could provide the system for
    employers to validate the identification of individuals eligible for
    employment. In addition, the system could be an accurate system for
    maintaining eligible voter registers. It could be the basis for an
    efficient drivers license system for the states. It could be the locus
    for individual medical records with an ability to cut costs for
    administration and medical care resulting from unnecessary repetitive
    services, over medication, and errors in diagnosis.. Should individuals
    wish to limit access to their records, access could be
    restricted subject to the approval by individuals or the courts.
    Violations could be subjected to heavy fines and jail sentences. Such
    safeguards already exist and are being used to protect your data stored,
    for example, by the Social Security Administration.
    And think of the budgetary savings through the elimination of duplicate
    data bases, systems, and bureaucracies. That, like the stars, are
    “billions and billions.”

    now focus on the politics of
    immigration. What is at play is the additional cost that immigrants
    allegedly represent to our expenditures for public education, health,
    and other safety net services,. What is also at play is the country’s
    ability to absorb and indoctrinate newly arriving immigrants to American
    values and systems. What is at play is the right to vote.

    take on the additional budgetary expenditures. Recent articles have
    claimed that immigrant worker represents an annual cost to the
    government of about $20,000. Let’s accept that estimate. At the same
    time let’s also recognize that these workers probably earn about $20,000
    to $30,000 annually. If they are on a payroll, they would be paying
    federal and state taxes, and may even be paying contributions to the
    Social Security system. If they don’t file an annual income tax report,
    they get no refund. If they are using a false
    Social Security number, they are contributing to a benefit system they
    may never receive. That contribution alone could amount to about 15 percent
    of their wages, split between them and their employer. They are paying
    sales taxes imposed by the states. They are paying the gasoline tax
    should they be running a car. All this suggests that they are not
    having a totally free ride on the economy.

    also might recognize that an able bodied worker isn’t costless. Growing
    up for 18 years costs. We pay at least $10,000 annually per individual
    from public and private sources for each of our 18 year olds. More likely it is double that. That
    means that $180,000 to $360,000 has been invested per able bodied American. We pay
    nothing for the immigrant. At least ten years would have to pass before the
    “capital” costs for a migrant would be “re-paid.”

    if a worker is educated, say, with a BA, that
    probably represents an additional expenditure minimally of roughly $20,000 a year
    for four years, e.g., $80,000 more per U.S. BA. The immigrant with a
    BA is free. Take it a step further. A physician requires four to eight
    years of additional training that probably costs more than $40,000 a
    year. Add $160,000 to $320,000. And then there are all those biochemist,
    computer scientist, nurses, engineers…… Suffice to say, immigrants
    at these levels of training are a steal.

    can we risk the mutation of our culture by letting all these
    non-Americans to enter the country? Well, let’s think about it. Is the
    absorption of 12 million “illegals” too big a bite to take in one fell
    swoop? First off, recognize that we already had that meal and seem not
    to be suffering from indigestion. These “illegals”are 1 out of 25
    people in the country, and many of them do
    not stay. Looking back three generations, most of what we now call
    Americans came from similar immigrant roots. The country’s ability to
    shape past immigrants and their children into citizens is the American
    phenomena. Those “illegals” who will decide to stay have already put a
    lot of their working lives into getting along in this country. Many
    have learned to speak English. Some have raised families, and have paid
    taxes for years. In a generation or two, their children won’t speak
    their native language, and probably won’t want to. They would resemble
    bedrock of Americans going to work, going to Church, buying houses,
    eating, sleeping and having kids. You won’t be able to tell the
    difference between them and your neighbor. They already are.

    “illegals” – and we – need is a way to mend a mistake they – and we –
    made years ago. They
    will have to pay a price to become “legal.” We, on the other hand,
    have to recognize that we turned a blind eye to their existence and let
    them in to serve us. Both of us need to make amends by defining an
    acceptable the path to “legality.” The overwhelming majority of
    “illegals” will likely salute and take it.

    there is the matter of citizenship and the right to vote. This
    privileges for a time may play a part of the price of atonement for
    illegal entry into the country. But, once the debt has been paid
    for illegal entry, a workable procedure can be fashioned for them
    to earn legal immigrant status, Citizenship for these working
    residents in time, and under the right conditions, may ultimately be
    justified. As willing workers, they are the “salt of earth.”. Many already are “Americans.” They
    ought to have the opportunity to earn the right
    to be citizens.

    Jaime L. Manzano
    Federal Senior Executive and Foreign Service Officer (Retired)
    Bethesda, MD

    301 365 4781

      • No, they still will need to eat. They will either seize their food from others, be fed by the charitable, or die.

      • They will not seize their food from me. If bleeding hearts want to support them at their own expense then I do not care. If they die, frankly I do not care.