(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) on Wednesday announced plans to introduce legislation that would overhaul the U.S. immigration system by placing tighter restrictions on legal immigration and increasing pressure on illegal immigrants currently in the country to leave.
"Throughout the immigration debate, out of touch amnesty-only critics of enforcement have tried to hide behind their cry of 'what is your solution?' Well this week we will show them and the president what immigration reform should look like and what the American people deserve," Tancredo said in a statement announcing the proposal.
Tentatively dubbed the Optimizing Visa Entry Rules and Demanding Uniformed Enforcement (OVERDUE) bill, Tancredo's proposal would "restor[e] America's immigration system to more traditional numbers and encourages the assimilation of America's most recent great wave."
Tancredo, a long-shot candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, acknowledged that his proposal "will undoubtedly be unpopular among the political elites, big business and big labor, but it is legislation that this country has been calling for, and I dare say, needs."
As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the Senate in June blocked a comprehensive immigration reform proposal that would have increased border and employer enforcement, created a guest worker program and offered a path to legalization to the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) declared the bill "dead" after Republicans, responding to a massive grassroots lobbying campaign from their base, blocked a measure to end debate on the proposal.
"Congress must take on the tough issues and follow through on what we've been sent out here to do and serve in the best interest of the people we represent," Tancredo said. "For too long the special interests and political heavyweights have tried to sell us on the need for an amnesty and justify their refusal to enforce the law."
Tancredo's proposal uses indirect measures to encourage undocumented residents to leave on their own. The bill would eliminate "chain migration," tighten the employment-based green card category, and limit automatic birthright citizenship to those with at least one parent who is a citizen or legal permanent resident.
Other provisions of the proposal include suspending the Visa Waiver Program and prohibiting states from granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, according to a summary provided by Tancredo's office.
It also requires federal immigration authorities to assist state and local law enforcement officials in enforcing immigration laws. The bill does not include provisions addressing the construction of a fence along the U.S. border with Mexico, because the funding for the fence has already been approved by Congress and including it in this bill would be "redundant and unnecessary."
The final version of the bill is still under construction by Tancredo's office and should be submitted to Congress later this week.
'Status quo is a problem that must be addressed'
Carlos Espinosa, a spokesman for Tancredo, acknowledged in an email to Cybercast News Service that "considering the nature of this Democrat Congress, it is fairly unlikely that this bill will truly pick up steam."
"However," Espinosa added, "it is important to keep talking on this issue because while the Senate amnesty would have been a step in the wrong direction, the status quo is also a problem that needs to be addressed."
Michele Waslin, director of immigration policy research for the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic rights group, agreed with Tancredo's disapproval of the status quo, but expressed serious reservations about the policies he proposed.
"The Senate voted for the status quo," Waslin said, referring to the rejection of the bill in June.
"They clearly didn't provide a solution and the immigration problems continue to exist. What we're seeing is people from all levels of government trying to fill that vacuum and make a statement about undocumented immigration but unfortunately none of these proposals offer a real solution, a real practical, fair solution to our problem," she added.
Waslin, who hasn't read the proposal because a final version has not been released, said that based on Tancredo's own summary of the bill, it's "a proposal that is not a solution to our current immigration problems."
She called the proposal "anti-family" because of the restrictions it would place on so-called "chain migration" and limiting family-based movement to nuclear families.
Waslin also criticized the proposed tightening of employment-based green cards.
"American employers need workers and currently there simply are no visas available for workers doing many categories of work, and so by further restricting employment immigration you're denying businesses the workers they need and putting increased pressure on the border," she said.
"The more resources we put into enforcement, the larger the number of undocumented immigrants in this country," Waslin argued. "Further restricting legal immigration and adding more enforcement really does not seem like a practical or realistic solution to this problem."
Tancredo's spokesman said making it more difficult to move into the United States legally would not increase motivation for illegal border crossings.
"History has shown that a decrease in legal immigration goes hand in hand with a decrease in illegal immigration," Espinosa said. "Further, once our borders are properly secured, and we enforce our laws to the fullest extent, illegal immigration will also decrease."
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