Mishandling The Immigration Reform Debate: A Roundup

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In the early going, the omnibus immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in June looked as though it would be killed off by a GOP-led House effort at toning down the ambition; making a series of smaller, piecemeal changes; and setting aside the real elephant in the room — amnesty — for a separate final battle.

In other words, it appeared as though the GOP might actually have something meaningful to offer on immigration reform.

Fast forward to August, when the idealism has mostly faded.

In the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is poised to stall deliberation on immigration reform until after the August recess — mainly in an attempt to avoid angry constituent confrontations while on break. The tactical delay also keeps House GOP leaders from taking a stand, which effectively gives their Democratic adversaries no GOP policies to criticize. From Wednesday’s National Journal:

But far from a failure of leadership, top House Republicans are casting the inaction as a tactical play designed to boost reform’s chances.

Keeping immigration on the back-burner helps avoid a recess filled with angry town-hall meetings reminiscent of the heated August 2009 protests where the backlash against health care reform coalesced. Doing nothing also starves Democrats of a target, Republicans argue.

… Boehner, Cantor, and McCarthy have privately discussed holding off on immigration until October. (September has only nine legislative days that will be jammed with fiscal negotiations as House Republicans and Senate Democrats scramble to fund the government after the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.) The August break gives Republicans time to chart a course on immigration ahead of a packed fall schedule that leaves little time for strategizing.

On the Senate side, we have Senator John “Gang of Eight” McCain (R-Ariz.) engaged in back-room machinations to defang the border security apparatus. The sine qua non border security provision that helped the Senate bill garner enough crossover Republican votes won’t survive the House-Senate “compromise” bill that comes up in the fall. From POLITICO on Tuesday:

During an immigration forum hosted by the AFL-CIO Tuesday, McCain — a key Senate Gang of Eight negotiator — said while a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s undocumented immigrants is a “fundamental element” of the bill, the “rest of it could be adjusted.” He singled out the border security parts as an example.

“We don’t need 20,000 additional border patrol agents,” McCain said Tuesday. “But what we do need is use of technology that has been developed where we can survey the border more effectively.”

The border-security provisions in the Gang of Eight bill, written by Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, would set aside more than $46 billion to double the number of border patrol agents along the southwestern U.S. boundary, add new surveillance technology and to complete the 700-mile border fence.

Corker and Hoeven drafted their amendment in the final days of the Senate immigration debate, and it was critical to luring several wavering Republican and Democratic senators on board with the overall bill.

“I voted for it so friends of mine would be comfortable that we are securing the border,” McCain said Tuesday. “But the real securing of the border is with technology, as opposed to individuals.”

Read into that what you will.

And, hanging like a Sword of Damocles over both chambers is the GOP’s donor class, whose money is on amnesty. Dozens of top donors and legacy officials from the George W. Bush era are pushing Congressional Republicans to grant amnesty wholesale. The Washington Times revealed Tuesday that donors see amnesty as a gateway to including “potential Republican voters” — a tactic borrowed straight from President Barack Obama’s own political playbook.

Nearly a hundred top Republican donors and Bush administration officials sent a letter to the House GOP on Tuesday urging lawmakers to pass a bill that legalizes illegal immigrants, arguing that the current system is already allowing them to stay and so it makes sense to register them and bring them into the system.

The donors, led by former Bush administration Cabinet officials Carlos Gutierrez and Spencer Abraham, also said that immigrants are potential Republican voters who can be won over — if the party can be seen as welcoming to immigrants.

“Doing nothing is de facto amnesty. We need to take control of whom we let in our country and we need to make sure everybody plays by the same rules,” the donors said in their letter.

In the midst of it all came a separate story in The Washington Times Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security (how did we live without it before 2001?) can’t find more than 1 million immigrants who’ve overstayed their visas in the United States. One of those turned out to be the crazy homeless lady from China who was caught this week defacing Washington, D.C. landmarks with green paint. Clearly, our immigration enforcement system is already plenty airtight; so there’s no getting the cart before the horse by granting amnesty now to 11 million more people. Clearly.

The Homeland Security Department has lost track of more than 1 million people who it knows arrived in the U.S. but who it cannot prove left the country, according to an audit Tuesday that also found the department probably won’t meet its own goals for deploying an entry-exit system.

The findings were revealed as Congress debates an immigration bill, and the Government Accountability Office’s report could throw up another hurdle because lawmakers in the House and Senate have said that any final deal must include a workable system to track entries and exits and cut down on so-called visa overstays.

The government does track arrivals, but is years overdue in setting up a system to track departures — a goal set in a 1996 immigration law and reaffirmed in 2004, but which has eluded Republican and Democratic administrations.

“DHS has not yet fulfilled the 2004 statutory requirement to implement a biometric exit capability, but has planning efforts under way to report to Congress in time for the fiscal year 2016 budget cycle on the costs and benefits of such a capability at airports and seaports,” GAO investigators wrote.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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  • IsThisAmerica

    McCain what is wrong with you? You are from Arizona a damn border state! Does your feeble dementia laden mind remember that? Do you remember we in Arizona don’t want an amnesty bill? Do you remember we want the laws on the books already to be enforced? NO AMNESTY!!!! You are pissing a lot of people off with your STUPIDITY! NO NO NO! Is that clear enough? Don’t come home your not wanted here. Stay the hell in D.C. with the rest of the crooks and slime.

    • donna sawyer

      John McCain use to be a good, , hell zI vote for him for President, , But something has ,has happen to him?? gone off deep end!! He not think clear anymore, he has beame a Rino, he had ,to tobe voted out ,he has stop caring about the American people and his State, really sad!!

  • boyd

    John McCrazy was re-elected of Arizona with massive republican votes. This from people who live in a state that is being destroyed by the illegal alien invaders. So aren’t we conservatives getting what we voted for? Aren’t we getting what we deserve? As a wise man once said, “Stupid is as Stupid does.”

    • SickandTired

      John McCain is no Conservative!

    • IsThisAmerica

      I did NOT vote for him.

  • Robbie

    There was a very, very funny bit of information on the news this morning. Speaker John Boehner was slamming President Obama (what else is new?) and said that if he (Boehner) had an approval rating as low as the President’s approval rating he would not be doing what the President was doing. Then they put on the screen the approval ratings of Boehner and the President. The President is at 45% and Boeher at 9%!!!! How dumb is this Boehner guy? It doesn’t get more stupid than this.

  • M. Willemsen

    Those who think of illegal immigrants as people here to plunder the country, steal jobs, and displace the English language probably do not know and live among such immigrants. If they did, they would have a different perspective. The “illegals” include your brother’s girlfriend, the nice neighbors who take care of your dog when you’re on vacation, some of your kids’ teammates on their soccer team, the man you hired to fix the broken gate, and later helped your youngest learn how to ride a bike, etc. The illegal immigrants of today are just what immigrants have always been — people who come here to escape oppression and poverty and to life in a county of liberty and opportunity. The laws have changed, but not the character of the immigrants.

    • SickandTired

      Not in my neighborhood!

      • donna sawyer

        Not in my neighborhood eather!! That, person,is in dream land if he thinks that , poor soul!!

    • IsThisAmerica

      Really? What world do you live in?

  • M. Willemsen

    Those who think of illegal immigrants as people here to plunder the country, steal jobs, and displace the English language probably do not know and live among such immigrants. If they did, they would have a different perspective. The “illegals” include your brother’s girlfriend, the nice neighbors who take care of your dog when you’re on vacation, some of your kids’ teammates on their soccer team, the man you hired to fix the broken gate, and later helped your youngest learn how to ride a bike, etc. The illegal immigrants of today are just what immigrants have always been — people who come here to escape oppression and poverty and to life in a county of liberty and opportunity. The laws have changed, but not the character of the immigrants.

  • Clarence789

    Entry-Exit control would be hard to do well, and is mostly unnecessary. Instead, make those here without authorization to work mostly unable to get hired. The students thinking of jumping into the workforce would mostly fail, and exit on their own. Visitors too would exit on time. Workplace controls are a better choice than border/entry/exit controls.

    IRCA set up the basics in 1986. Now lets just add that SSA must tell ICE of name-ssn mismatches unresolved more than 8 weeks.

  • SickandTired

    In this era of “The Computer” we can track these people! Our government is tracking our phones, our computers, our newer vehicles, there are cameras on every metro street corner taking photos, cameras all along the Interstate Highway System that can easily read license plates, Drones flying around the sky that are capable of well, many things. Cameras in the Subway System, Cameras in the airports! The Government has the audacity to say: we can track the incoming humans but we cannot track the outgoing. Really?!!! Bull, these politicians make me sick to my stomach!!

  • IsThisAmerica

    I am SICK and TIRED (Sorry SickandTired), of spanish ads flooding my mailbox, spanish being spoken over the store speakers of just about any damn store in Arizona. NO to ALL of that, Damn when I moved here 10 years ago I was totally unaware that I crossed the international border line.