Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Eight Potholes for 'Gang of Eight' Immigration Bill

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Graham and other senators in the “gang of eight” say the immigration plan will be budget-neutral, using fees to pay for new spending.

While Sen. Jeff Sessions has been the most persistent Senate critic of the group’s work, his point about enforcement within the borders of the U.S. might carry weight. “The promises in the future, even if it goes into law, of enforcement, haven’t occurred in the past,” the Alabama Republican told reporters Tuesday, expressing concern that the benchmarks for immigration enforcement might not be attained. Sessions pointed to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers union’s opposition to the Obama administration’s deferred action policy on undocumented individuals who entered the country as children.

3. Provisions for Immigrants Previously Deported

Frequent opponents of broad immigration overhauls are already criticizing language that would allow people who have previously been deported for nonviolent immigration offenses to gain legal status as what the summary calls registered provision immigrants. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, highlighted that provision on the House floor Tuesday afternoon, but Graham said any immigrants willing to abide by U.S. rules should be welcomed. “We want people to come back or stay on our terms, not theirs,” Graham said. “If you’ve committed violent crimes or multiple misdemeanors you’re not eligible.”

4. Funding for the Commission

The plan would establish a new bipartisan commission to improve border security if effectiveness of border security in key areas does not reach 90 percent over five years. The commission would hand down recommendations to improve securing the borders, and according to a summary, the bill would actually appropriate up to $2 billion to implement necessary changes. That idea has raised the ire of some skeptics questioning if that could later be undone through the regular appropriations process.

5. Collecting Back Taxes

The proposal requires that individuals seeking legal status repay any back taxes, already prompting some questions in the Senate halls about the investment that would be required to enforce this tax compliance provision, as well as how it might be implemented and if there could be a new paperwork burden on employers. McCain suggested that if people want a path to become citizens, that won’t be at issue. “They have to prove they’ve been here since before Dec. 31, 2011, that’s one way you do that,” McCain said.

6. Poison Pill Amendments

An open amendment process at the Judiciary Committee and on the floor may require Senate supporters to dodge an assortment of poison pill amendments designed to make passing the bill untenable. In 2007, an amendment offered by then-Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, D-N.D., to an attempted Senate immigration overhaul garnered an unusual coalition of supporters including Republican opponents such as Jim DeMint, R-S.C. The amendment pertained to the future flow of immigrants, an issue that was addressed during the negotiations that led up to the release of the new bill from the eight senators.

7. Getting Both Parties on Board
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