(This post was updated at 12:18 a.m. CST on July 28, 2013.)
In the latest example of Congress proving the old adage that those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, the U.S. Senate has now passed a "comprehensive immigration reform" bill. The vote was 68-32, with 14 Republicans joining every Democrat and the two "independent" Senators who caucus with the Democrats in supporting a measure that really could only conceivably benefit Democrats. (More on that later.)
Those who want the House of Representatives to follow suit and pass this or a substantively similar bill have been trying to convince those of us on the right that this "comprehensive immigration reform" push is different from the last one that blew up in its proponents faces...or the one before that...or the one before that...or the '86 law that they'd like us to forget about or ignore. This bill, we're told, is a conservative plan for immigration reform, supported by conservatives (Look, Marco Rubio supports it!), with tough border security measures. These arguments beg the question, "Why did every Democratic Senator support such a conservative policy plan?" The obvious answer is that, whether you're a Blue Dog Democrat from a red state or a self-described Socialist from a state where most voters can't tell their anus from a hole in the ground, this bill will be good for you and your party if it becomes law. Most immigrants vote Democrat. Most of the immigrants who are in this country illegally will, if legalized and allowed to vote, then vote Democrat (or not vote). Their children who are born here and are therefore U.S. citizens will vote Democrat, if they vote at all. It wouldn't matter if this act was passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by a Republican president; the political beneficiaries of it would be Democrats.
I'm not opposed to a pathway to legal status for those who are in this country illegally, and I want to see our immigration system reformed to make it easier to legally immigrate to the U.S. (provided you have something to offer and aren't going to be a public charge). I think building a fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border is a dumb idea and a stupid endeavor; if you want to build a fence, then just build one across the chapparal from the Imperial Valley to El Paso. It won't keep illegal immigrants out; it'll just slow them down. In Texas, we have a large river to do that. But, if I were a member of Congress, then I'd be branded an opponent of this legislation, as well as a "nihilist" and an "obstructionist" etc., by the Democrats and their allies in the media because I won't support any bill that will allow even one illegal to start on that pathway to citizenship or legalization before the borders are secure (by objective standards). The proponents of this legislation have made it clear that they do not want such an "enforcement first" approach.
Under the bill that passed the Senate on Thursday, the government would grant legal status to immigrants living in the United States unlawfully at the same time additional border security was being put into place at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. The legalization could begin as soon as a security plan was drafted (not actually implemented). One problem with this is, of course, that illegal immigrants and undocumented workers could be legalized wtihout our borders being effectively secured, meaning that illegal border crossings would continue.
Pragmatic senators have tried to amend the bill to fix this problem, but to no avail. A bipartisan coalition of senators seems determined to repeat the mistakes of the past. For them, it's not enough to allow the millions of immigrants here illegally to apply for legal status without having to return home (what some have labeled "amnesty"); we have to start legalizing them and just trust that the federal government will secure the border. This despite the Obama Administration's repeated refusals to enforce existing immigration laws. Here's my question for the supporters of the Senate bill who assure us that it will secure the border: If the legalization of illegals isn't predicated on objectively verified border security, then what is this administration's incentive to secure the border?
Even if the House and Senate were to miraculously pass a bill that required the feds to secure the borders before any illegal alien could be legalized, it's doubtful that President Obama would sign such a bill into law, and even if he did, his administration still probably wouldn't be motivated to do what they're supposed to do. After all, he's been re-elected; he won't be running for president again; so what's in it for him to shore up the Democratic base? (Maybe his wife or daughters have political ambitions, but other than that, I cannot conceive of any realistic impetus for him to secure the borders.)
This enforcement problem raises another issue that has curiously played a much less prominent role in the current debate than it did in the last great national debate over immigration reform six years ago. Do we really have an illegal immigration "problem" that needs to be addressed by new legislation? One of the more dubious lines from those irksome commercials pitching this immigration reform bill is, "Doing nothing is how we got here: Millions here illegally." I don't disagree, but the cause of the problem--"doing nothing"--wasn't the failure of Congress and the president to amnesty millions of illegals and create further magnets for immigrants, both legal and illegal; it's the failure of this and past administrations to effectively secure our borders and stem the spate of illegal immigration that's been plaguing our country for decades. Here's an idea: Let's try enforcing current law and see if that doesn't address our illegal immigration problems, including: immigrants unlawfully entering this country; foreigners coming here legally (e.g., on student visas) and then remaining here unlawfully after their visas expire; millions of immigrants living here illegally; and Americans hiring illegals. We already have laws addressing these problems, though the last one I listed could use a federal E-verify system. However, enhanced border security--even if effectively implemented--would only tackle the first of these problems; the other three need to be addressed by what's called "interior enforcement."
In a statement to the House Judiciary Committee last month, Chris Crane, President of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council and one of the few union leaders who actually seems to represent the best interests of his members, rightly accused "the individuals and organizations involved in crafting the Gang of Eight legislation" of "purposely ignor[ing] interior enforcement with the intent of continuing the practices [that] have led to the nation’s current immigration problems." Crane pointed out that, while visa overstays account for an estimated 40% of the 11 million illegal aliens currently in the United States (4.5 million), the Gang of Eight’s immigration legislation "speaks only of significant increases to border enforcement, not interior enforcement." The visa overstays problem, Crane argues, "cannot be stopped by the United States Border Patrol" and will "never" be addressed by investments in border security. Opponents of the Senate's latest comprehensive immigration reform bill should present a united front and challenge the Obama administration to prove that they're serious about securing the border by enforcing existing laws.
Yes, I've seen and heard ad nauseum that, under Obama, illegal aliens have been deported at a record pace, but in fact, there has been a sharp decline in the number of illegal-immigrant removals since June 2011, when ICE Director John Morton issued the so-called "Morton Memorandum" (officially entitled "Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion Consistent with the Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities of the Agency for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens"), the first in a series of significant changes to the agency’s enforcement policies. Crane and other ICE agents and officers have filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the validity of the Morton Memorandum and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano's June 2012 Directive not to enforce immigration laws "against certain young people who were brought to this country as children and know only this country as home." (This was part of the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan, or DACA.) At an evidentiary hearing in April, Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies testified that there "has been a significant decline in enforcement activity, as measured by the number of removals." As reported of National Review:
Removals generated by ICE’s Enforcement and Removals division, which is responsible for interior immigration enforcement, have decreased nearly 50 percent since June 2011. Vaughan says the administration has been inflating its deportation statistics by including a greater number of U.S. Border Patrol cases — illegal immigrants picked up at the border and subsequently referred to ICE — as part of its annual statistics. Border Patrol cases accounted for 56 percent of removals reported in fiscal year 2013, up from 33 percent in 2008. Typically, an individual apprehended at the southern border is simply returned to Mexico without being processed as a deportation by ICE.
Later that month, Crane told reporters that “DHS and ICE are knowingly manipulating arrest and deportation data with the specific intent of misleading the American public with regard to the enforcement of illegal immigration in our country.” He actually claimed that “ICE arrest and deportation numbers have plummeted since 2008" (emphasis added), which he called "clear evidence that interior enforcement has in large part been shut down over the last four years.” Not surprisingly, Mrs. Vaughan considers it “foolhardy for Congress to trust that this administration is actually going to implement any new enforcement plans”
Then there's the talking point about how the status quo is “de facto amnesty.” (The solution: de jure amnesty!) Ann Coulter pretty well destroyed the potency of that sound bite with this:
I gather Marco Rubio considers this his big showstopper, since he says it in every interview as if he’s announcing the Kochen-Specker theorem. But if we already have de facto amnesty, [then] why is this bill even necessary? Oh, that’s right! The Democrats need 30 million new voters.
It’s curious that Democrats don’t hysterically demand amnesty for other lawbreakers, such as tax-cheats or polluters. Right now — hold on to your hat, Marco! — we have “de facto amnesty” for tax-cheats and polluters! (Also rapists and murderers and every other crime that doesn’t have 100 percent enforcement.)
And if we won’t grant amnesty to tax-cheats and polluters, [then] what about their children? Why punish the children? They did nothing wrong. Their parents told them they had lots of money for houses, clothes and college tuition. How can you put a tax lien on the homes of innocent children? Think of how BP executives’ children have suffered — the divorces, the deferred dreams, the broken families …
And by the way, polluters are also hard workers. They love their families and want the best for them, too. I bet illegal aliens who rape women and kill people in drunk-driving accidents love their families. Members of MS-13 work very hard at gang activities, such as, for example, when you cross them, they are very dogged about having you killed in a drive-by shooting. That shows a real stick-to-itiveness.
But weirdly, Democrats are obsessed with amnesty only for the lawbreakers that will get them 30 million new voters. (Violent felons come next.)
I'm aware that the deportation process is very expensive. Deporting an illegal alien, though, costs a hell of a lot less than supporting them with the cradle-to-grave system of entitlements on which the left is so keen.
The immigration reform we need won't legalize the millions of Americans living in this country illegally; it's a reform in the federal government's approach to enforcement, both border enforcement and interior enforcement. Instead of passing a bill that spends a horrendous amount of money without solving the problem (BTW, what exactly is "conservative" about that?), the Congress should pass a law providing for a national, mandatory E-verify system and nullifying the DHS directives that instruct law enforcement officials not to enforce federal law. Granted, the constitutionality of legislation limiting the executive's prosecutorial discretion would be questionable at best, so the Congress would have to be careful about the wording of such a bill, but they've got really smart people to work on that.
Finally, I'll briefly address this BS about how the Republican Party is doomed if they don't jump on the band wagon and embrace "comprehensive immigration reform". There are plenty of cogent rebuttals to this argument, available to anyone who wants to read/hear them, but let me end this passage where I began: Immigrants vote Democrat, not 100%, but a majority of them do. Considering that illegal immigrants aren't eligible to vote, exactly what is the harm for Republicans in making sure that they stay ineligible to vote?
I thought I had an answer to that question about a year ago. It dawned on me after a conversation with one of my friends (who happens to be the son of illegal immigrants): Illegal immigrants can't vote, but if their children are born here, then those children are U.S. citizens who can register to vote once they turn 18. Put yourself in the position of someone who was born here to parents who were in this country illegally. Regardless of your personal political ideology, are you likely to vote for any candidate affiliated with a party that has roundly castigated your parents and people like them and insisted that they be deported?
Then it occurred to me: Why would Republicans suddenly changing their tact on illegal immigration have any affect on that voter's choice at the ballot box? Do Republicans like Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake think that the issue of illegal immigrants are going to forgive and forget just because a handful of Republicans supported legalizing their parents?
And, if you're worried about the Hispanic vote, Republicans, then you should be. Hispanics don't support your policies. 75% of Hispanics say they would rather have a bigger government providing more services than a smaller government with fewer services. 62% support Obamacare, and 59% favor same-sex marriage. According to a December 2011 survey conducted by Princeton Data Source for the Pew Research Center, a majority of Hispanics have a negative view of capitalism, and 44% of Hispanics have a positive view of socialism. (By comparison, the survey found that only 40% of all American adults had a negative view of capitalism, compared to 50% who had a positive view, and only 31% had a positive view of socialism.) And, while the percentage of Americans who identify as "pro-choice" dropped to a record low last year, 2012 exit polls found that 2/3 of Latino voters are firmly pro-abortion.
So, Republican presidential hopefuls who are concerned about how to win over Hispanic voters are better served by taking advice from anti-amnesty candidates such as Susana Martinez and Ted Cruz--or should I say Gov. Susana Martinez (R-state that's 46% Latino) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-state that's 38% Latino)--than from faux-conservatives like David Brooks who live in an insulated bubble that shields them from life's cruel realities. Right-wing Genius out!