Yesterday the Senate, on a procedural vote, decided not to pass any immigration legislation. I hesitate to use the word “immigration reform” because the proposed legislation compromise was anything but a “reform”. The proposed legislation was bad for everyone and it is hard to find anyone who would have been benefited. So it is difficult to understand why so many politicians have voiced such large disappointment. From my perspective the Congress missed the following:
1. Call it what it is. The bill most Americans thought was being debated was a “Mexican entry limitation” bill. It had little meaningful about actual immigration.
2. It was not a “Home Land Security” bill. Secretary Chertoff practically cried over the bills death. I am confident that Islamic radicals and fundamentalists will not be confused with Mexicans if they should slip into the country.
3. It was not about sealing the boarders. The 2000 mile boarder is practically impossible to seal and economically it is foolish to try. Every day the authorized boarder crossings are jammed with trucks, cars, and foot crossers so there is ample opportunity for Mexicans to cross with forged documents and simply disappear into the US.
4. It was not about amnesty. Somebody was smoking something when they proposed that the undocumented aliens already living here would come forward, pay a fine of $ 5ooo and then face the requirement that the head of the household must return to Mexico and apply to re-enter the US. That will never happen. It is a far better deal to continue living quietly in the shadows and let your children grow up as American citizens.
5. It was not about sensible tax and social services policy. There are over 12 million undocumented aliens, most of whom are not paying any taxes. They are, however, using social services and no one is paying for it.
6. It is not about getting rid of the 12 million undocumented aliens. There is no practical way to find them, and most likely economical prohibitive to try to find them and then deport them.
How then did this bill get so far?
1. Most likely supporters were looking for politically expediant steps now and believe they would have a chance to modify provisions in the bill later when it became evident that the provision was not working.
2. There had to have been well organized special interest groups who were simply opposed to Mexicans taking US jobs. The statement that if employers simply paid more there would plenty of legal Americans who could fill the jobs is patently impossible. If farms paid signicantly higher wages, the consumer would vote at the grocery store and choose produce imported from lower wage countries.
3. Ideologues (also a special interest group) were dead against the entry and legitimizing the undocumented because the majority of these people would become a Democratic Party voter. For these ideologues, opposing the bill with any argument was ok and the outcome, that is a stalemate, was very acceptable.
The “Immigration Time Out” also showed the dysfunctional nature of both the President and the Congress. George Bush has no (null, zero, niente, none) political capital left and when combined with his lack of any leadership skill or stamina, it should not be surprise that Republicans did not support the bill. The Congress is so compromised with the race to raise money that they are paranoid about who is objecting to any legislation. They can not differentiate between real grass roots opposition or special interest smoke screens. This does not bode well for the near future.