Sunday, May 20, 2007

Devil in the details

If the devil is indeed in the details then it seems that the more details we learn about this Amnesty bill, the more it looks like it is chock full of demons. Nobody seems to know for sure what all is in this bill, now at a draft stage of 700 pages and expected to grow to 1000 pages. Not even the people who will be voting on it has any idea and will have little time to study and debate it before voting.
One provision that has come to light is the forgiveness of any back taxes owed by illegal aliens. Do you think for one minute that the IRS would forgive any citizen for unpaid taxes? The Boston Globe fills us in on this latest demon detail.

The Bush administration insisted on a little-noticed change in the bipartisan Senate immigration bill that would enable 12 million undocumented residents to avoid paying back taxes or associated fines to the Internal Revenue Service, officials said.

An independent analyst estimated the decision could cost the IRS tens of billions of dollars.

A provision requiring payment of back taxes had been in the initial version of a bill proposed by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat. But the administration called for the provision to be removed due to concern that it would be too difficult to figure out which illegal immigrants owed back taxes.

The dropping of the back-tax provision was not made clear in the announcement of the immigration reform proposal on Thursday. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, speaking in reference to illegal immigrants seeking legal status, said, "You've got to pay your taxes." He did not state whether he was referring to back taxes, future taxes, or both.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, asked in a telephone interview yesterday to clarify Chertoff's remark, said it referred only to future taxes.

"It is important that the reformed immigration system is workable and cost efficient," Stanzel said. "Determining the past tax liability would have been very difficult and costly and extremely time consuming."

Stanzel stressed that immigrants would be required to pay a fine of up to $5,000 if they want to apply for a green card to become a legal resident, although that fine is not for failure to pay taxes.

Laura Capps, a spokeswoman for Kennedy, said a provision for requiring back taxes was in Kennedy's original bill and that Chertoff called for it to be removed. "Chertoff thought it would be too challenging to accurately determine the amount of an applicant's back taxes," she said.

If you're thinking that flat-rate $5000 fine would cover it anyway, guess again-- Mel Martinez is looking to get that dramatically reduced if not removed entirely. Freed Thompson had this to say about this "comprehensive" immigration bill.

But there's an old saying in Washington that, in dealing with any tough issue, half the politicians hope that citizens don't understand it while the other half fear that people actually do. This kind of thinking was apparent with the "comprehensive" immigration reform bill that the U.S. Senate and the White House negotiated yesterday.

I'd tell you what was in the legislation, but 24 hours after the politicians agreed the bill looked good, the Senate lawyers were still writing what may turn out to be a one thousand page document. In fact, a final version of the bill most likely will not be made available to the public until after the legislation is passed. That may come five days from now. That's like trying to digest an eight-course meal on a fifteen-minute lunch break....


Is it any wonder that a lot of folks today feel like they're being sold a phony bill of goods on border security? A "comprehensive" plan doesn't mean much if the government can't accomplish one of its most basic responsibilities for its citizens -- securing its borders. A nation without secure borders will not long be a sovereign nation.

No matter how much lipstick Washington tries to slap onto this legislative pig, it's not going to win any beauty contests. In fact, given Congress's track record, the bill will probably get a lot uglier -- at least from the public's point of view. And agreeing to policies before actually seeing what the policies are is a heck of a way to do business.

There is no telling how many devils there are in this pit. As Thompson says, we may never know until past the time it is enacted into law.