Congress is in recess this month and federal lawmakers are hearing from constituents on the immigration bill that passed the Senate. A video of a town hall meeting posted on You Tube a few days ago shows the usually glib Rep. Aaron Schock (IL-18) bumbling through a question about the bill.
As feared, the Congressman, a protégé of Speaker Boehner, knows very little about the bill and immigration generally. How else to explain his use of the phrase “undocumented citizens?” There is no such thing. People in the country without documents may or may not obtain citizenship under the Senate bill. It’s a long and bureaucratic process involving payment of a modest fine, obtaining provisional legal status, then lawful permanent residency (a “green card”). Only then, 13 years down the road, could a person apply for U.S. citizenship.
Mr. Schock’s slip up either betrays an unfamiliarity with this process or, worse, an open borders mentality. Would he prefer people in the country illegally fill out a form and get sworn in summarily as citizens? That would put him well to the left of Sen. Schumer and turn the state of Illinois into something like the U.N. next election day with a million new voters, most of whom have a rudimentary knowledge of our culture and history. With such an electorate, even Schock’s Peoria-Springfield-based district might turn blue.
Mr. Schock also believes, wrongly, that illegal immigrants would be required to pay back taxes under the Senate bill. This is not true. The typical illegal worker has been using a series of aliases and fake social security numbers over the years to get employed. This has the collateral benefit of enabling the illegals to evade filing tax returns. If the I.R.S. comes after them, they simply assume a new alias and make up a new social security number, often purchasing one belonging to an actual citizen on the black market.
If and when they apply for legal status under the Senate bill, all they are required to do is resolve any actual, outstanding disputes with the I.R.S. But that does not mean 'fessing up to years of unpaid taxes. The bill requires no such thing. If it did, few illegals would come out of the “shadows.” A tiny fraction of this population is actually being audited. They would have to complete that process before obtaining lawful status.
And then the Congressman made the stunning declaration that illegals could only obtain status under the Senate bill if the haven’t “violated the law.” Does he not know that everyone who works in this country without legal status is violating the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1986, which requires employers and employees to verify under penalties of perjury that the employee is legally authorized for employment and that his or her documents appear genuine?
The typical illegal immigrant violates this law repeatedly in presenting false documents to their employers. Often they use Social Security numbers of American citizens, thereby creating a type of tax hell for these hapless people who have to fight with the I.R.S. over wages earned in chicken processing plants and other notorious employers of this class.
I have represented some of these Americans, and their situation is nothing short of bureaucratic hell. But Mr. Schock seems not to care. If he thinks these crimes are venial, he should say so. Otherwise, perhaps he will actually think through how to deal with millions of illegal immigrants rather than parroting the clichés of the Republican leadership.
Howard Foster is an attorney whose practice in Chicago includes immigration issues.