Touting Allard's failed amendment for third straight day, Sentinel misleadingly described immigration reform provisions in editorial

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

An editorial in the Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction about Republican U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard's defeated amendment to proposed immigration reform legislation made the misleading claim that the bill "would give immediate legal status to 12 million or more immigrants currently in this country illegally." In fact, Senate Bill 1348 requires that several thresholds be met before the Z visa program takes effect.

A June 7 Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction editorial about U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard's (R-CO) failed attempt to gut the so-called "Z visa" provision from proposed immigration reform legislation misleadingly claimed that the measure "would give immediate legal status to 12 million or more immigrants currently in this country illegally while offering only the prospect of somewhat improved border control and at an indefinite date in the future." In fact, the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 1348, requires a variety of thresholds to be met before the Z visa program takes effect, and some officials estimate it could take 18 months for that to occur -- contradicting the Sentinel's assertion that the bill would give "immediate" legal status to current illegal immigrants.

As Colorado Media Matters has noted (here and here), Daily Sentinel articles from June 5 and 6 reported on Allard's amendment without including comments or views from lawmakers who support the Z visa provision.

From the June 7 Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction editorial, "Break the law and go to the head of the line":

Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard this week sought approval for an amendment to the highly controversial bill on immigration reform that would seem to easily pass most Americans' common-sense test. His amendment would have eliminated preference toward citizenship given to illegal immigrants already in this country at the expense of legal immigrants awaiting the chance to become citizens.

Or, as Allard put it, "We should not reward those who have broken the law, and we certainly should not punish those that have abided by the law."

But in the alternative universe inhabited by those who unflaggingly support the immigration reform bill currently before Congress, such common-sense efforts are not to be tolerated. Allard's amendment was killed by a vote of 62-31 Tuesday and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it's time to stop considering amendments and debate on the bill. He suggested a Senate vote on the bill could come by the end of this week.

[...]

Such blithe abrogation of the normal procedures that allow our representative form of government to function may have one beneficial effect. It may turn more senators and members of the House against the bill, which would give immediate legal status to 12 million or more immigrants currently in this country illegally while offering only the prospect of somewhat improved border control and at an indefinite date in the future.

Contrary to the Sentinel's assertion, a May 18 White House press release stated that "Workers approved for Z visas will be given a temporary legal status, but they will not enjoy the full privileges of citizens or Legal Permanent Residents, such as welfare benefits and the ability to sponsor relatives abroad as immigrants," as Colorado Media Matters has noted.

Furthermore, in claiming that SB 1348 offers "only the prospect of somewhat improved border control and at an indefinite date in the future," the Daily Sentinel ignored Section 1 of Senate Amendment 1150, a proposed substitute for SB 1348. SA 1150 states that the Z visa (Title VI) and guest worker sections (IV) "shall become effective on the date that the Secretary [of Homeland Security] submits a written certification to the President and the Congress that the following border security and other measures are funded, in place and in operation":

(1) STAFF ENHANCEMENTS FOR BORDER PATROL.-- The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol has, in its continued effort to increase the number of agents and support staff, hired 18,000 agents;

(2) STRONG BORDER BARRIERS.-- Have installed at least 200 miles of vehicle barriers, 370 miles of fencing, and 70 ground-based radar and camera towers along the southern land border of the United States, and have deployed 4 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and supporting systems;

(3) CATCH AND RETURN.-- The Department of Homeland Security is detaining all removable aliens apprehended crossing the southern border, except as specifically mandated by law or humanitarian circumstances, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has the resources to maintain this practice, including resources to detain up to 27,500 aliens per day on an annual basis;

(4) WORKPLACE ENFORCEMENT TOOLS.-- As required through all the provisions of Title III of this Act, the Department of Homeland Security has established and is using secure and effective identification tools to prevent unauthorized workers from obtaining jobs In the United States. These tools shall include, but not be limited to, establishing --

(A) strict standards for identification documents that must be presented in the hiring process, including the use of secure documentation that contains a photograph, biometrics, and/or complies with the requirements for such documentation under the REAL ID Act; and

(B) an electronic employment eligibility verification system that queries federal and state databases to restrict fraud, identity theft, and use of false social security numbers in the hiring process by electronically providing a digitized version of the photograph on the employee's original federal or state issued document or documents for verification of the employee's identity and work eligibility; and

(5) PROCESSING APPLICATIONS OF ALIENS.--The Department of Homeland Security has received and is processing and adjudicating in a timely manner applications for Z nonimmigrant status under Title VI of this Act, including conducting all necessary background and security checks.

(b) It is the sense of Congress that the border security and other measures described in such subsection can be completed within 18 months of enactment, subject to the necessary appropriations.

(c) The President shall submit a report to Congress detailing the progress made in funding, appropriating, contractual agreements reached, and specific progress on each of the measures included in (a)(1)-(5):

(1) 90 days after the date of enactment; and

(2) every 90 days thereafter until the terms of this section have been met.

If the President determines that sufficient progress is not being made, the President shall include in the report specific funding recommendations, authorization needed, or other actions that are being undertaken by the Department.

Additionally, a May 22 New York Times article (accessed through the Nexis database) reported that the Z visa and temporary worker programs would be triggered only after "[s]everal border enforcement measures" are met and that "officials estimate[d] it would take 18 months to put the triggers [enforcement measures] in place":

The bill would greatly toughen border enforcement, eventually doubling the Border Patrol to 28,000 agents. Several border enforcement measures, known as triggers, must be in place before a temporary worker program can begin, and before illegal immigrants can gain their first legal visas. The triggers include installation of at least 370 miles of border fence and 200 miles of vehicle barriers.

For another trigger, the Department of Homeland Security must create a new, fraudproof system to verify the legal status of all job applicants. Penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants would be greatly increased, to $5,000 for a first offense and up to $75,000 and even jail for repeat offenses. Department officials estimated it would take 18 months to put the triggers in place.

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