Is the Conryn Amendment to the Senate Immigration Bill Helpful?

This analysis is based on Senator Cornyn’s one-page summary of the RESULTS amendment. The amendment adds the following triggers that must be met before green cards will be given to individuals in the legalization plan:

  1. 100% monitoring capability on the entire Southern border;
  2. 90% apprehension rate on the Southern border; and
  3. Biometric exit system for all air and sea ports.

The amendment includes more border and interior enforcement, including a one-strike-you’re-out rule for certain misdemeanors.

Legalization Triggers

  • Deploy a Comprehensive Southern Border Strategy
  • Complete the Southern Border Fencing Strategy
  • Implement a mandatory employment verification system
  • Implement an integrated electronic exit system at air and sea ports (repeated in the Cornyn amendment)
  • The new triggers Senator Cornyn proposes would likely hold up the legalization of 11 million people who have no control over the implementation of that plan and should not have their future held in limbo if they comply with all the requirements established by the bill.
  • The bill already includes the three additional triggers in Cornyn’s amendment, but does not make them triggers. Implementing those border security components is an important but complex task that will require planning, testing, and substantial resource allocation. Making those components triggers could delay legalization indefinitely. For example, previous biometric pilots experienced significant problems in implementation, were never tested for accuracy, and were not accepted by the airline industries because of the expense. Any air and sea port exit system must be tested carefully. Failure of such a system would result in major delays for travel and commerce and could jeopardize economic security.
  • Unreasonable triggers compromise our national security. An important element of legalization is to encourage millions of people to come out of the shadows and register with the government. As a society, we are strengthened by identifying who is here, requiring them to pay fines and taxes, and ensuring background checks are done. Unless immigration reform can offer a clear and reliable plan for legalization, many people may be afraid to participate.
  • There must be a clear strategy and purpose to any increase in enforcement costs. Since 2003, the U.S. Border Patrol has doubled to over 21,000 agents. How is adding another 10,000 at a cost of $24 Billion going to achieve the goals. If this is approved, we may have more agents along the Southern Border than troops in Afghanistan. Does that make any sense? We need smart security measures, not political expediency.

Crime bars to RPI status

  • The amendment renders individuals ineligible for legalization for single misdemeanors including domestic abuse, child abuse, and violations of protection order. The amendment would put victims of violence at greater risk because it establishes no standard for how severe the crime must be. Many people with old, minor crimes, including the victims of violence themselves, will not be eligible. Victims are often arrested because they defended themselves, or due to language barriers, lack of counsel, or bias against immigrants and women of color circumstances which at times even lead to the victim pleading to the crime.
  • What about second chances? There are none in Cornyn’s Amendment. A single misdemeanor, regardless of family in the U.S. or other equities in their favor, would arbitrarily bar aspiring immigrants.
  • The current bill already has will exclude deserving individuals from ever obtaining legal status. Any further tightening of these exclusion grounds would only erode due process and undermine the bill’s purpose of bringing individuals and families out of the shadows.
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