The 2006 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, S. 2611, had a tiny section buried within it that’s interesting to contemplate, especially considering S. 744’s omission of similar language. S. 2611‘s Section 401 required an environmental impact study to determine what the consequences of adding millions of new immigrants to the United States would be on our natural world. Such a study is not only appropriate but essential to determine how our non-renewable resources would be affected as well as how much increased infrastructure like schools and hospitals would have to be constructed to accommodate the new arrivals.Of particular interest to CAPS and others environmentally concerned are these requests in Section 401 for Census Bureau data:

     "The projected impact of legal and illegal immigration on the size of the population of the United States over the next 50 years, which regions of the country are likely to experience the largest increases, which small towns and rural counties are likely to lose their character as a result of such growth, and how the proposed regulations would affect these projections."


     "The impact of the current and projected foreign-born populations on the need for additions and improvements to the transportation infrastructure of the United States, an estimate of the public expenditures required to meet this need, the impact on Americans' mobility if such expenditures are not forthcoming, and the additional effect the proposed regulations would have."

Duplicitously, S. 2611 required that the environmental study be completed within 90 days after the legislation passed or, in other words, once the horses had already left the barn.

But even though S. 744 would double annual legal immigration to nearly two million per year, increasing population much more than S. 2611 would have, the current bill doesn’t refer to population growth or the environment much less call for an official report to study those two important corollaries of expanded immigration.

Here’s an upbeat end note to S. 2611. The bill, sponsored by Pennsylvania then-Democrat Arlen Specter passed the Senate, 62-38. See if you recognize any of its language: S. 2611 would put 10 million illegal immigrants on the “road to citizenship” after they paid “fines and back taxes.” Like the W visa in S. 744, the 2006 bill would also have created a new non-immigrant visa for guest workers, the H-2C. Both bills call for doubling the H-1B visa caps.

But, encouragingly, S. 2611 never became law.  Although it passed the Senate, a House immigration bill, H.R. 4437 that focused exclusively on border security and stiff penalties for employers who hire aliens. The Senate and House bills varied so widely on their approaches to immigration that Congress didn’t hold conference committee meetings.