Only when dealing with immigration do both parties abandon all promises to cut frustrating bureaucratic red tape and instead race each other to insist on more of it. The plan to be unveiled soon by the bipartisan "gang of eight" senators includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants that is an intentionally arduous bureaucratic labyrinth that will take 20 years to crawl through. President Obama's plan offered a mere eight years of torture.
The National Review's Katrina Trinko has the early details. The plan gives illegal immigrants two options:
A) Go to their home country and wait five years to apply for a green card; or,
B) Stay in the U.S. and apply for temporary legalization status.
Option B is bureaucratic torture porn. There are several steps.
Step I: Wait for the Mexican border to be really secure. Immigrants will have to wait for the government to begin implementing several security measures, such as:
- Tracking all immigrants at airports to make sure they don't overstay their visas.
- The Mexican border will be policed at all times by drones. (The Canadian border won't be tampered with.) The Department of Homeland Security will have six months to come up with a drone plan. After five years, the department must be droning at full capacity.
- Require all businesses to use e-Verify to check employees' immigration status.
Step II: Documentation. Immigrants must:
- Prove they've lived here two years straight, which can be proven by things like utility bills or medical bills.
- Pass a background check. Speeding tickets are OK, felonies are not.
- Maybe prove they're not in a gang. "One contentious issue among the senators is whether immigrants who are clearly part of gangs but who have no criminal record will be allowed to obtain legal status," Trinko reports.
- Prove they make enough money to live here -- an income of something like 125 percent of the federal poverty level.
Step III: Show them the money. Immigrants must:
- Pay a fine and back taxes. The fine will be more than a couple hundred bucks but less than $10,000. If immigrants can't pay up front, they can have the fine taken out of their payroll taxes.
Step IV: Stay employed! And get private health insurance. And don't have any accidents.
- Immigrants can't be unemployed for more than six months.
- Immigrants who need federal assistance -- presumably this means food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, disability, etc. -- have to go home.
- Immigrants who get status under this law are forbidden from getting Obamacare's benefits. Trinko doesn't say what this means. No subsidies to buy private health care plans? Parents can't keep 25-year-olds on their insurance plans? Obamacare's Medicaid expansion covers people earning up to 139 percent of the federal poverty level. So that would mean a single immigrant earning, say, 133 percent of the federal poverty level -- $15,282 a year -- can stay here but can't get Medicaid.
Step V: Chill for 10 years. A decade after the border is truly secure, these immigrants can apply for green cards.
Step VI: Wait 3 to 5 more years. That's how long green card holders have to wait to apply for citizenship.
If everything worked perfectly, immigrants could be citizens in 13 years. But 20 years is more realistic, Trinko reports. The Washington Examiner's Conn Carroll is skeptical the U.S. will actually have the stomach to deport immigrants just because they lose their jobs or become disabled. "It’s a monstrous idea. And it will never happen," he writes. We're not so sure. It's a catchy slogan: "Give me your tired, your poor... well poor but not too poor. Above my official poverty line, please."