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Lamar Smith cries ‘amnesty’ over bipartisan immigration reform plan

January 29, 2013

There’s big news this week that a bipartisan group in the U.S. Senate have drafted a framework plan on how to overhaul the nation’s broken immigration system. There are many questions not answered by the five-page blueprint drafted by the senators that went public Monday. But the proposal would do two major things: further boost enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border, and finally offer a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Cue reaction from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio). A member of the House judiciary subcommittee on immigration, Smith’s reaction to most reforms floated on the immigration front has become formulaic: Cry amnesty, over and over. Smith said in a written statement:

No one should be surprised that individuals who have supported amnesty in the past still support amnesty. When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration. By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration.”

Other Texas politicos have announced their reservations, too – albeit, not as strongly as Smith. Newly-minted GOP Senator Ted Cruz admitted to finding “good elements in this proposal, especially increasing resources and manpower to secure our border and also improving and streamlining legal immigration.” But Cruz still has “deep concerns” over the path to citizenship. Similarly, a spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn told the E-N the focus must first be placed on the “porous border.”

Border enforcement would, in fact, be the first element tackled under the plan. It stipulates that the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants living in the US “will only receive a green card after every individual who is already waiting in line for a green card, at the time this legislation is enacted, has received their green card.” But before that process starts, certain yet-to-be-determined border enforcement measures have to occur. The plan calls for the creation of a commission of governors, law enforcement leaders and local electeds from border states that would determine when border security is sufficient.

So, expect more done surveillance and border agents before we see more green cards, according to the plan.

The blueprint also calls for implementing a national work verification system and some sort of entry-exit system to make sure the government can track those who overstay their visas.

Exempted from the back-of-the-line provision for granting green cards would be two groups: Dream Act-eligible students – immigrants brought into the country as children – and agricultural workers. There aren’t specifics on those two programs – the Dream Act-like exemption will most likely include some age limit and a requirement that the individual go to college or join the military.

We’ve asked Lamar Smith’s office for an interview, hopefully to hear what type of immigration reform measures the GOP congressman would endorse. We’ll provide an update if he responds. – Michael Barajas

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