Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 7, 2011

TRYING TO PUT IMMIGRATION POLICY BACK ON THE TABLE.... A crowded legislative calendar in the last Congress made immigration reform unlikely, and the breakdown of bipartisan talks made it impossible. With Republican gains in the midterms, including a new House GOP majority, any chance of passing meaningful legislation before 2013 appears remote, at best.

But there are apparently some preliminary efforts underway to try anyway.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have rekindled their alliance on immigration reform, taking some early steps to test the political will for addressing the contentious issue this year.

Their call list hasn't focused so much on House and Senate members who've been reliable pro-immigration votes in the past. Instead, they're looking to a strange-bedfellows mix of conservative and liberal constituencies that can provide a "safety net" of support, as Graham put it, once the issue heats up.

It's a credible enough initiative that Schumer's office has reportedly sent word to "conservative evangelicals, the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union, business organizations and immigrant advocacy groups," that talks are prepared to move forward. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is back in the mix, too.

Comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue, and the basic framework of a worthwhile package is already in place -- Bush, congressional Democrats, and some reform-minded Republicans agreed on a path several years ago, and the Obama White House would very likely endorse a very similar, if not identical, policy.

With this in mind, I'm glad Graham and Schumer at least have their hearts in the right place. They're reaching out to newly-sensible GOP senators like Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and have apparently brought John McCain back into the discussions (though he promised voters last year he would refuse to negotiate on the issue).

But putting aside questions of whether it's even possible to craft an immigration bill that could get 60 votes and overcome Republican obstructionism, I haven't the foggiest idea why anyone would think the GOP-led House would even consider such a measure.

The Republican majority in the lower chamber has already said it would never pass the DREAM Act, for example, and that's arguably the easiest and most popular part of comprehensive reform. As for a pathway to citizenship, GOP leaders in the House have effectively said such an idea is dead in the chamber before the debate even starts.

I'd love to be wrong about this, but unless someone came up with a way to pass important legislation without the House of Representatives, I'm inclined to put my hopes on immigration policy on hold for a long while.

Steve Benen 10:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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Hey, if as part of their Suicide Pact the Republicans don't want to move on immigration, I'd be fine with it, except of course for all of the poor immigrants affected.

Murder-Suicide seems to be a running theme in Republican Philosophy recently.
As they try to kill everything from health care, to immigration, to choice, to fiscal sanity and a more just ecomonic and social system through tax increases, one realizes that it's suicidal for them as a party in the long run, one just wishes they would just do it outright, and not take a large number of people with them.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 7, 2011 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

It is surprising indeed that Graham has moved back onto this issue, given how he has been targeted by the Tea Party maniacs. I wonder if he is trying to move back towards the center as his only means of political survival for his upcoming reelection effort.

Posted by: Rathskeller on February 7, 2011 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Rathskeller, it would make no sense to move to the center in place like South Carolina unless you mean its center, not America's. But South Carolina's center is way in deep right field. Still, a fascinating question - why is Butters doing this?

Posted by: walt on February 7, 2011 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

It ain't gonna happen. The Teabaggers like their whipping boys (and girls) too much to actually agree to any kind of resolution of our immigration mess.

Posted by: kindness on February 7, 2011 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

We've complained a lot about the votes to repeal health care and how it was grandstanding. But when it comes to electoral politics, Republicans seem to know what they're doing. (Notice how they control the House and have a shot at controlling the Senate, despite their litany of failures as a governing party?)

So, maybe, just maybe, we should take a page out of the GOP playbook from time to time. What harm would it do to have a vote in the Senate to show Latino voters who is on their side so that they're inspired to show up and vote at the next election?

I'm no expert on this stuff, but again, the Republican leadership seems to know how to get their base to show up in election after election. Shouldn't Dems consider trying to do the same?

Posted by: Chris on February 7, 2011 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Under Bush 43, this all ended when a temporary worker program, that had been cut in half from its original 400,000-person-a-year target, had a five-year sunset provision added, much to the glee of the unions.

Posted by: Neo on February 7, 2011 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

I'm still of the opinion that when you hear any politician use the phrase-"COMPREHENSIVE immigration reform"- they are not willing to truly move foward. This issue touches too many special interests (i.e. all of us) that they sweat the potential reactions. If they were truly prepared to "stop the flow" then fine anyone and everyone who hires an illegal. That, right there, takes some doing. After that , then decide what to do about the ones who are here. One legislative act to solve the total concerns is too far to reach.

Posted by: fillphil on February 7, 2011 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

As the Teabag position on immigration is pretty much seal the border with Mexico, repeal the 14th amendment, and mass deportation, I don't think their idea of immigration reform would have anything to do with making it easier for immigrants to gain citizenship or even work here legally.

In the minds of paleo-conservatives the current status quo is already an unacceptable compromise.

Besides, with stubborn unemployment, the continued destruction of private sector labor unions, and relentless efforts to weaken worker protections, the business community is realizing that it can find plenty of cheap compliant labor here already.

Posted by: rip on February 7, 2011 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

A pathway to citizenship already exists.
It isn't used much because penalties for illegal immigration are so poorly enforced that waiting for your legal entry to com through eh queue is the hope of fools.

Progressive financial penalties for illegal employers will destroy illegal immigration.
When that happens, ramp up legal immigration with funding to work through the backlog of vetted immigration applicants.

A GOP congress shouldn't have a problem with this and neither should Dems, for that matter.

When the illegal jobs dry up, illegal immigrants deport themselves. The fines on illegal employers pay for any enforcement costs.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on February 7, 2011 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Lindsey Graham, as he always does, will reverse position in 5...4...3...2...

Posted by: Hannah on February 7, 2011 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see Graham going down this road only to reverse course.

To try to answer walt's question, I see 3 possible reasons for Graham here:

1. He doesn't intend to run for re-election,knowing he's going to be defeated in the primary, and he wants to go out with some dignity and really try to accomplish something.

2. He's going to run, but is fatalistic and is trying to preserve his dignity and integrity (contra his former friend John McCain).

3. He's going to run (perhaps as an independent in the general election) and his strategy is to aim for what moderate and independent votes there are in S.C. and maybe even some Democratic votes.

Posted by: DRF on February 7, 2011 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

The issue with immigration from Mexico IS complex.

But here is the problem with BOTH sides.
They are treating the symptoms not the problem.

If someone comes into ER with a 104 degree temperature the Doctors do THREE things.

First, they arrest the increase of temperature :
This is the Republicans method. Build a fence/wall and block off the flow.

Second, they do what they can to reduce the temperature :
This is the Democrats method. Amnesty to change all the illegal/undocumented to legal documented. See problem is gone!

They both REFUSE to deal with the third thing.
What the hell caused the high temperature in the first place?!?
Doctors deal with this because if they do not ... they will be dealing with the patient again in a week ( Or rehashing immigration in 20 years, cause after all Reagan already did amnesty!).

Until people deal with MEXICO driving it's citizens to FLEE their own homes at numbers approaching 1 million/year ...

NO Immigration reform will be worth the toilet paper it is written on.

Mexico is 14th in the world in GDP ...it should be 6th or 7th ( just behind India-- Mexico has a smaller population but more lucrative resources including being a member of OPEC ). It's citizens ARE refugees of economic persecution -- something our State department refuses to recognize. But that could be changed.

In addition, Here is a TRUE story. And I challenge anyone to speak with their Latino friends to verify this.

I have a friend who is here as an undocumented worker( yes he picks berries in WA state ).
I asked him if he would go back to Mexico if there was work.
He said no.
I asked why not and he said
"My son is in 6th grade. My daughter in 4th. If we went back to Mexico my son would be told to be a man and get a damn job. My daughter would get one more year and then told to find a husband and start making babies. Mexico only gives an education to 5th grade unless you are rich or have a perfect 4.0 GPA.
I wouldn't go back for anything less than $100,000 to make me and my family rich enough to afford to educate our children.
Anything else and it is my children who's lives Mexico will throw away."

I am open to pretty much a lot of different alternatives regarding immigration reform.
But any alternative that does not stop Mexico's crimes against humanity and require them to raise their offering of public education to at least 10th grade ( and sheesh ... ONLY 10th grade?!? ) is a non-starter for me.

Posted by: chromehawk on February 7, 2011 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

The US government has for far too long intentionally overlooked this massive problem over thirty years. The border has been overrun, undermanned and so to the delight of un-American employers, millions have swept into this country stealing jobs. As I see it, its definitely lowered wages for the working man and women and the taking (approximately) 8 million jobs, in the majority of trades and profit producing companies offering minimum wages and no health benefits. Illegal alien and family members are uninsured, and end up painfully stinging the US taxpayer in the emergency rooms. If businesses didn't attract illegal aliens and reduced the influx they would have no other choice but to hire US citizens and legal residents and therefore wages would spiral upwards and the hospitals would not get a monetary soaking, that eventually pried from YOU and ME by the IRS.

Its up to the American worker or citizen to serve as a whistle blower and inform ICE, if the company they are employed by is hiring foreign workers. Its unsettling to note that Nevada has become a settlement for illegal nationals even more so than the Sanctuary State of California. Does it not seem strange that trespassing onto American soil are rewarded by our government, and do not suffer the same fate as illegals intruding in other nations. Other countries have severe penalties such as being charged with felony or being fired upon at the Mexican-Guatemalan border. As more and more State legislators see the insaneness of pandering to the invasion that is costing billions of dollars and enact policing laws such as 287 (g) and E-Verify audits. The majority of anxious illegal foreigners will be looking for a new homes across state lines to find a refuge. California is already suffering from turning a blind eye by granting illegal aliens a free pass to welfare entitlements and a non hostile climate were citizens pay a hefty penalty in heavy taxes.

Over many decades taxpayers have been manipulated through badly misinterpreted laws such as the 14th Amendment, allowing the babies of illegal immigrants to access welfare benefits including housing for the low income. When old soldiers remain homeless illegal aliens can receive a key to Section 8 housing--if they conceive enough infants. Even before these people arrive in America, they have been well trained into deceiving the welfare offices with fraudulent ID. Today anybody who believes that we only have 11.5 million foreigners here, must be fortunately indifferent to the coming overpopulation chaos. Only those Americans or legal non citizens who care about the federal deficit will even bother to join a pro-sovereignty group, to show their courage against the open border organizations or even call their federal and local politicians to fight back against this injustice. Those oppose any kind of restrictions on illegal or even legal immigration are in the majority leftist groups with Liberal extremist undertones. Our government keeps more or less silent that over a million legal immigrants enter the US annually? Even the US government , (GAO) the General Accounting office has disclosed that for every (1) dollar paid in taxes by illegal foreigners, they receive back 3 dollars of our money.

Its my judgment that unless California's Sacramento lawmakers mend their ways and begin the task of cutting off every benefit to the millions of foreigners squatting there, they will become a principle destination. As enforcement becomes the name of the game in less compassionate States those homesteading there will head for Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and other malleable States. It's started already with the State of Arizona that is the first stop on the map for heinous criminals, people smugglers and drug gangs.
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Posted by: Brittanicus on February 7, 2011 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

It's good way for Senate Republicans to pander on the issue without paying a price. Talk about something you know will go nowhere in the House.

Posted by: joejoejoe on February 7, 2011 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

I think it would be great to see IR back on the table. Thing is, I feel like certain people in congress might on the surface argue that they support systems such as everify, in reality, they don't, because they want to keep labor prices low in favor of business. --GC holder via eb-5 visa program

Posted by: eli redd on February 7, 2011 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Chromehawk - excellent post. The REAL problem is Mexico is a toilet for most of its citizens. Why doesn't the U.S. address that?

Big business wants produce picked cheaply. Small business can't compete. How come we piss away m/billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than cleaning up our own backyard?

Posted by: Sarafina on February 7, 2011 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Great points, chromehawk. Why are we helping the nasty and vicious upper classes of Mexica to stay rich by exploiting their fellow Mexicans -- and us?

As for this new initiative, I hope it dies the death it deserves.

Let them focus on US for a change in Washington, let them get our 15 million unemployed working again.

Posted by: jerseycityjoan on February 8, 2011 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK



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