Inside the immigration bill: Details, bureaucracy and pork

 

McClatchy Washington Bureau

Inch your way through the Senate immigration bill and you’ll find special stuff for ski instructors, cruise line repairmen and Irish workers. You’ll see “committee’’ mentioned 152 times, and task forces cited 39 times.

Welcome to the Senate’s 1,198-page blueprint for overhauling the nation’s immigration system. Few lawmakers probably read the weighty tome, so we did. And we found it full of exacting details, excruciating bureaucracy and a little pork.

Everyone with an interest in the subject is made to feel they have a say. Like the Department of Homeland Security Border Oversight Task Force, which will oversee border security policies. It takes six pages to describe its mission and membership.

The task force would have 33 members, 19 from the southern border region, 14 from the north. Among its eventual missions: “a recommendation as to whether the DHS Task Force should continue to operate.”

Sounds like Homeland Security officials would spend a lot of time getting advice. Once a border strategy is set, it must be submitted to eight congressional committees, as well as the comptroller general.

Chances are lawmakers have read those parts of the bill. But given the number of lawmakers who confessed they didn’t read the 2010 health care law, the question arises whether they’ve read the whole thing. The stock answer is that staff reviews each page and warns about politically troublesome pieces.

What are lawmakers missing by not snuggling up with S. 744?

They would see how the bill dictates lots of stuff that has to happen _ and not happen _ as well as lots of stuff surgically implanted by senators to please folks back home.

In the protect-yourself category is an elaborate system to control the cost of government conferences. On page 71, rules dictate that should certain grant recipients spend more than $20,000 on a conference, government officials’ approval is required. The provisions follow reports of a General Services Administration conference that cost more than $800,000.

For those so inclined, there’s a section starting on page 113 titled “protection of family values in apprehension programs.” Should someone be deterred at the border, officials would have to determine if they were a parent, guardian or child. Then, when determining repatriation or prosecution, they have to consider “family unity whenever possible,” as well as “the best interest of such individual’s child.”

The back of the bill has stuff lawmakers tucked in to make constituents happy. On page 984, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., set aside 10,500 visas for Irish immigrants with at least a high school degree.

That’s nearly half the 25,000 visas available to people with advanced degrees in technology, engineering or math from a U.S. college or university. Then again, New York has a huge Irish-American population.

Bilingual and multilingual ski instructors made the cut in the Senate bill, thanks to Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. (The word “ski” appears six times). Pages 1037-38 describe how they could have an easier time entering and working in the U.S. under a visa program normally reserved for athletes and entertainers and allows them to stay in the country for up to 10 years.

Dave Byrd, who specializes in immigration issues for the National Ski Areas Association, said the multilingual foreign instructors are magnets attracting skiers from all over the world. The visitors might prefer lessons in their native tongue.

Currently, Byrd said, special visa programs are “designed for unskilled labor – think strawberry pickers, fishery workers, etc,” Byrd said. “Ski instructors, on the other hand, are skilled and certified.”

The northern border and the southern border get different treatment.

The bill lays out in precise detail the kind of security it wants along the U.S.-Mexico divide. In the El Paso region, for example, the bill specifies 71 fixed camera systems, 170 “unattended ground sensors,” 24 handheld equipment devices, 31 mobile surveillance systems, and so on. There are also provisions along the southern border for four unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, 30 marine vessels, 17 additional Huey helicopters, 10 converted and five new Black Hawk helicopters and more.

The northern border gets far different treatment.

Starting on page 1011, under the section “Encouraging Canadian Tourism to the United States,” Canadian retirees can stay in the U.S. up to eight months a year, up from the current six, if they own a U.S. home or sign a long-term rental agreement. Canadian snowbirds pumped $4.4 billion into Florida’s economy last year, according to Statistics Canada.

“We’ve been lobbying for this for two years,” said Evan Rachkovsky, research officer for Canadian Snowbird Association. “The rationale was to give retirees greater flexibility in terms of time in the U.S.”

Email:dlightman@mcclatchydc.com;wdouglas@mcclatchydc.com;Twitter:@lightmandavid;@williamgdouglas

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
FILE - This Jan. 9, 2009, file photo shows equipment inside a pilot plant in Scotland, S.D., that turns corn cob into cellulosic ethanol, a precursor to a commercial-scale biorefinery planned for Emmetsburg, Iowa. Biofuels made from corn leftovers after harvest are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a cleaner oil alternative from the start and will help climate change.

    Study: Fuels from corn waste not better than gas

    Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

  •  
In this March 19, 2014 photo, Oregon Republican Senate candidate, State Rep. Jason Conger, right, speaks as fellow candidate Portland lawyer Tim Crawley, looks on, during a candidate forum in Lake Oswego, Ore. Republicans are making a bold play for a U.S. Senate seat in Oregon, a reliably Democratic state that hasn't elected a Republican to a statewide office in more than a decade. Republicans think they've found the right candidate in Monica Wehby, a children's brain surgeon who's raised more than $1 million and put her early opposition to the president's health law at the center of her campaign to help her party regain a Senate majority.

    GOP making bold play for US Senate seat in Oregon

    The GOP is making a bold play for a U.S. Senate seat in reliably Democratic Oregon, where a Republican hasn't been elected to a statewide office in more than a decade.

  •  
FILE - This March 14, 2013 file photo shows House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and House Democratic leaders speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House Republicans’ campaign committee raised almost $10 million in March and has $31.2 million banked to defend the party’s majority, according to financial reports filed Sunday. The National Republican Congressional Committee’s $21.2 million fundraising haul in January, February and March gave the group its best first-quarter showing since 2003. It also puts the committee roughly $8 million ahead of its fundraising at this point in 2012. From left to right are Democratic Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.

    GOP campaign committee has $31M to hold House

    The House Republican campaign committee raised almost $10 million in March and has $31.2 million banked to defend the party's majority, according to financial reports filed Sunday.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category