The most recent attempt to deal with the Immigration Reform in Congress failed last Thursday in the hallowed halls of the Senate of the United States of America! While it never came to a final vote on the proposed law, it did not receive the required sixty votes for cloture to cut of debate and was therewith effectively defeated. The Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has now put the proposed law aside indefinitely since there are a great number of other matters that have to be dealt with in Congress.
When some of the titans in the Senate, among them Ted Kennedy and John McCain, decided earlier this year to draft a new Immigration Reform bill in cooperation with the White House, it was agreed to short-circuit conventional methodology to develop and process such a proposal. A group of about a dozen Senators worked on the draft behind closed doors and accepted input from designated representatives from the Bush administration, primarily Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Instead of letting the new law work its way through senatorial committees which is always very time consuming, the Kennedy/McCain group decided to do it more expediently and when finished, they went public with it.
First impressions and reactions were expectedly varied when people got a chance to read the details of this bill contained in more than four hundred pages of paper. While some hailed the proposal as a very comprehensive piece of legislation in that it addressed all the elements connected with immigration, others called it an outright ‘Amnesty bill’ and rejected everything about it. This resulted in a series of attempts to define “amnesty” on the part of the supporters of this legislation but as more and more details became publicly known, it appeared that the proposed bill included simply too many elements.
Yes, it included a concerted effort to secure our borders with Mexico with a multi-billion dollar allocation for just such work, on the other hand, the current crop of illegal immigrants in the country were all to be given a chance at a path to citizenship. These estimated twelve million people had to register with authorities for identification and background checks after which they were to receive some sort of temporary ‘z’ visas. These folks would also receive tamper-proof I.D. cards and employers would be held accountable for checking the legal status of work applicants. Violations would include heavy fines for employers. The proposed bill also included provisions for a guest-worker program, a pet project of President Bush, mainly for workers in the seasonal agricultural industry. Then provisions were added to process these immigrants on a so called ‘point-system’ where points were assigned to individuals based on their skills and professional abilities and experiences (more points for higher skill grades etc). Then the immigrants were also to pay fines for having entered the United States without proper papers and eventually (after 8 to 13 years) they could apply for and also receive citizenship in this country.
You get the gist of it? This proposed immigration bill was too comprehensive, it was too cumbersome and too all-inclusive to be practical and enforceable, as well as raising the public’s suspicions and skepticisms. The processing bureaucracy would be so overwhelming that it was doubtful that the new law’s could be truly implemented. But that did not stop the proponents of this bill from proceeding in the Senate. Objections by other Senators were initially disregarded and even lambasted as obstructionism. Other critics were told that this new bill was the last best chance for quite some time and that things would only get worse in America if not dealt with in this fashion NOW! The Senators on both sides eventually agreed to accept over twenty amendments for deliberations and the process continued. And so, for several weeks from late May until the end of June the ‘Comprehensive Immigration Act of 2007’ was debated, altered, amended and voted upon in parts by the esteemed members of the United States Senate. On June 28, this debacle ended when a vote for cloture to end the debate (requiring by Senate procedures 60 votes in the affirmative) failed in that only 46 Senators voted for cloture.
What happened next was predictable: Instead of looking for answers to the question – What went wrong? – The first action by the bill’s proponents was to look for Who to fault for the failure! This is where it becomes comical, would you believe it was Talk-Radio? Yes, it is Rush Limbaugh and his numerous conservative radio talk-show hosts who are being blamed by the pundits and the bill’s proponents for the failure of passage of the proposed law! They apparently whipped up the public and encouraged them to call on their Senators to vote in the negative.
This requires us now to look at this final vote: As we know, there are 49 Democrats and 49 Republicans with 2 Independents completing the total number of 100 members in the Senate. With the absence of Senator Johnson, a Democrat from South Dakota, the remaining 99 members voted as follows:
33 Democrats, 12 Republicans and 1 Independent (Joe Lieberman from Connecticut) voted in favor of cloture. 37 Republicans, 15 Democrats and 1 Independent (Sanders of Vermont) voted against cloture. While it is true that the vast majority of Nay votes came from Republicans, it is quite a stretch to believe that Rush Limbaugh and his talk-radio buddies convinced 15 Democrats to vote Nay. Among the 15 Democrats were such staunch liberals as Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller from West Virginia and Tom Harkin from Iowa.
It is of course not at all uncommon to look for blame elsewhere when things go wrong but to blame talk radio is quite a stretch. Had the Democrat leadership in the Senate held their caucus together, the cloture vote would have received the number of votes required to proceed and we would have had by now a new ‘Comprehensive Immigration Act of 2007’ ready for the President’s signature. The fact remains, the legislation died due to its own complexity, fogginess in content, and parallel efforts to secure our borders while providing a path to U.S. citizenship for these millions of illegals was cause for a general distrust by the public questioning rightfully that it would be implemented and enforced. Coupled together with an uneasy feeling about making over 12 million people who are in this country illegally with the stroke of the pen “Legal” drew the reaction by citizens who called the Senate offices and sent e-mails and letters. A great number among the ‘No-voting’ Democrats were freshman Senators who are not up for re-election until 2012 but they felt compelled to listen to the concerns of their constituents.
Some of the skepticism was based on the fact that the ‘Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986’ included similar elements as were in this bill. This 21 year old law is still on the books and with the exception of granting amnesty to about 3 million illegal immigrants and ‘giving them a path to citizenship’, the other provisions in that bill such as border security and tough sanctions against employers who hired illegal aliens were never enforced. Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton and the current President Bush did not enforce these provisions that are still on the books. But neither did Congress do its job in overseeing the implementation of laws they pass!
To us here at ‘Back to Common Sense’it would be a giant step forward if the current Administration would tighten the borders and submit the appropriate funding requirements to Congress. Once such an effort becomes reality and the citizens of the country see results and the seriousness on the part of the government, another attempt should be made to bring the other elements of such Immigration Reform legislation for consideration in Congress. If it cannot be done all at once, bring it up in a logically proper piece-meal basis. We have to tackle this problem but do it with common sense and rationale. Once the border is much more secure, try to deal with tamper-proof ID cards and employer sanctions for non-compliance, bring the 12 million individuals out of the shadows by allowing them to stay here (after background checks etc), but do not immediately try and give them a path to citizenship! Let that be the last thing you tackle! Do not think of these people as potential future voters, that smacks heavily of hypocrisy and ulterior motivation and Americans are too smart not to notice that fishy smell!
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