Monday, April 28, 2008

Save Us from the SAVE Act

The Secure America Through Verification and Enforcement Act (SAVE Act, HR 4088) is a declaration of war against unauthorized immigrants. Backed by over 160 congressional representatives, including forty Democrats, the SAVE Act is being promoted by immigration restrictionist organizations, such as NumbersUSA, Federation for American Immigration Reform, and Eagle Forum, as providing legislative authority for their “enforcement only” strategy. But rather calling for a massive deportation of the country’s 12-13 million illegal immigrants, the restrictionists are currently mobilizing behind an “attrition through enforcement” campaign that puts “constant pressure on illegal aliens and their employers by ICE and local governments.” According to NumbersUSA President Roy Beck, an “attrition through enforcement” strategy is the “most effective and efficient solution” to “our illegal immigration nightmare.” By increasing the pressure on immigrants through employer verification and immigration enforcement by all law enforcement agencies, local and national, the SAVE Act, according to Beck, is the “middle-ground solution.” It’s what “most Americans want” since the bill offers an option that involves neither “massive legalizations” nor “massive round-ups.” By requiring local police to enforce immigration law, putting 8,000 more Border Patrol agents out in the field, and requiring employers to verify the legal status of all workers within four years (using a highly flawed national employment database), the SAVE Act aims to increase pressure on immigrants to “self-deport.” While the Democratic leadership has attempted to delay the bill until there is time to craft another comprehensive immigration reform proposal that includes a legalization component, the House Republicans are mobilizing behind a “discharge” measure that would force the bill to a floor vote. Needing a majority of 218 votes to discharge the bill, the House Immigration Caucus has succeeded in winning the support of 186 members. Immigration restrictionists crashed in the presidential campaign, but they are not a spent force. Having succeeded in quashing comprehensive reform and elevating a “security” agenda to the top of the immigration policy agenda, they are pushing now to pass the SAVE Act in the House. In keeping the focus of immigration reform on security and enforcement – calling for more Border Patrol agents, more judges (to order deportations), and more border fencing -- restrictionists like Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Cal.), the SAVE Act’s cosponsor (along with Rep. Heath Shuler, D-NC ) have escalated the horrifying war against immigrants. The Democrats need to mobilize themselves to hold the line against the likes of Rep. Tom Tancredo, NumbersUSA, Immigration Reform Caucus, and all those seeking to increase the fear and vulnerability of immigrants. Attrition is not an acceptable policy alternative. Nor is it an efficient and cost-effective solution. As the Congressional Budget Office concluded, the SAVE Act will cost the nation dearly. If implemented, federal revenues will decrease by $17. 3 billion over the 2009-2018 period as immigrant workers are pushed outside the tax system, and increase discretionary spending by $10.3 billion over the same period.

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