Democrats pushed forward on an immigration overhaul on Thursday evening with no Republican support, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) continues to hold out, arguing that the divisive issue will make progress on climate change legislation impossible.
The Senate is also in the middle of debating Wall Street reform, which is expected to take up the next few weeks of floor time. Reid, however, said that the chamber would be able to handle the task. "We can do more than one thing at once," he said.
The Democratic proposal includes increased money for border patrol and drug war agents, equipment, helicopters and unmanned drones. It would create a national ID -- which is dubbed a "biometric social security card." Though Democrats insist that it is not an ID card and can only be used for employment purposes. [UPDATE: See language limiting its use below.]
The proposal would also include a crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers. It works to deport some immigrants who are not in the country legally and creates a limited pathway to citizenship for others.
Democrats brought out their heavy hitters for the announcement: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.); Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.); Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who's been leading the push for immigration reform; Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.); Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
The crackdown on employers relies on the creation of national identity cards. "These cards will be fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, wear resistant, and machine-readable social security cards containing a photograph and an electronically coded micro-processing chip which possesses a unique biometric identifier for the authorized card-bearer," reads the bill summary.
Broadly, the proposal includes:
1. More Border Patrol officers
2. More Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, worksite inspectors, document fraud investigators and drug-war agents
3. The "installation of high-tech ground sensors throughout the southern border and for equipping all border patrol officers with the technological capability to respond to activation of the ground sensors in the area they are patrolling."
4. More prosecution of drug smuggling, human trafficking and unauthorized border crossing
5. "[I]ncreases in the number of sport utility vehicles, helicopters, power boats, river boats, portable computers to track illegal immigrants and drug smugglers while inside of a border patrol vehicle, night vision equipment, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS), scope trucks, and Mobile Surveillance Systems (MSS)."
6. All prisoners will be checked for immigration status and deported if found to lack documentation.
7. DHS will "identify, investigate, and initiate removal proceedings" against folks who came here legally but didn't leave.
8. The bill would create "a broad-based registration program that requires all illegal immigrants living in the U.S. to come forward to register, be screened, and, if eligible, complete other requirements to earn legal status, including paying taxes."
The full summary can be read here.
The bill would make it illegal for anyone other than an employer to ask to see the enhanced social security card: "Possession of a fraud-proof social security card will only serve as evidence of lawful work-authorization but will in no way be permitted to serve--or shall be required to be shown--as proof of citizenship or lawful immigration status. It will be unlawful for any person, corporation; organization local, state, or federal law enforcement officer; local or state government; or any other entity to require or even ask an individual cardholder to produce their social security card for any purpose other than electronic verification of employment eligibility and verification of identity for Social Security Administration purposes. No personal information will be stored on the electronic chip contained within the social security card other than the individual's name, date of birth, social security number, and unique biometric identifier."