This morning's Power Line post by John Hinderaker is entitled "Immigration Prospects Brightening." A reader might think that John is reporting on progress toward viable legislation, but he means that the Senate bill's prospects are "dimming." In other words, he's cheering for the failure of the Senate bill.
I hope I am wrong, but it seems that Power Line has adopted the hard-line position: No immigration bill this year unless it does not go beyond the House's "enforcement only" approach.
What is most interesting, and disappointing, about Power Line's position is that John claims the House's obstructionist position is based on the House's sensitivity to "the will of the American people."
I don't think so. What is happening is that Republican members of Congress are responding to a slice of voters in their districts who are adamantly opposed to any earned citizenship for illegal aliens. These are the purists: They want all illegals now in the U.S. to return to their home countries and wait in line to return. Period. Adherents of this view have so far been reluctant to come right out and say what they want, but they have been getting bolder and bolder as time has passed.
Let's be clear: That group is not "the American people." It's a slice of about 30% of Republicans who feel that way, if you believe this poll by Pew Research. But it's a loud, activist bunch of Republicans. In short, congressmen and congresswomen, and more than a few senators, simply don't want to anger an important group among their base of support, who have threatened to punish the solons if they do not toe the line on this issue. It's that simple.
Okay, politics are politics. That's the way a representative democracy works. Realistically, it doesn't look like the Senate bill is going to be passed. That's fine with me; neither I nor those who agree with me on immigration think the bill is perfect. I don't think anyone, even the White House, thought the Senate bill would become law without substantial revision.
Still, I would like to see the following provisions survive:
- Serious border enforcement, including the House's 700 mile fence, not the shorter Senate proposal, which is a little over 300 miles long.
- Deportation of criminals and recent arrivals, without exception.
- Some kind of earned legalization that screens out undesirables and recent arrivals, and that reflects the humane American spirit, so that the GOP doesn't end up being painted as the anti-Hispanic party.
- The earned legalization (or "amnesty," if you insist on calling it that) could be phased in, e.g., it could begin only when certain enforcement targets are met, or after two years, or something like that. If Jim Sensenbrenner has his way, however, any kind of earned legalization is a deal-breaker. I think this approach is short-sighted (apart from being downright stupid).
- Allowing illegals to collect Social Security as if they had been here legally.
- Unacceptably high quotas for immigration of unskilled workers, the highlighting of which has has made this fellow from the Heritage Foundation a star on conservative talk radio, where hosts use interviews with him to stir up their audiences (that 30% noted above) into a frenzy over how the American way of life is about to end as a result. (Oh, but there are some who are a little less hysterical about that report and actually question the Heritage author's math. Oh, bother! Whom to believe? But is there any doubt in your mind whom the 30% group believes?)
- A guest worker program that adds so much bureacracy that it's not worth the effort. This is something the conference committee will need to hash out.