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April 6, 2006
Immigration Reform: Less Is ... Well, Less

In the hours after the announcement of a compromise on immigration reform, it seems that details have been might scarce -- never a good sign when legislators announce an agreement. If the deal actually satisfied anyone, the politicians would have had the wonks out in force in an attempt to impress the media and calm the passionate. The lack of detail signals that the compromise may be little more than an easy way out of a contentious battle.

The Washington Post and the New York Times both cover the story but neither has much on the particulars of the deal. The Post notes that the compromise keeps the temporary worker program and the path to citizenship:

The compromise would give illegal immigrants who have been in the United States for more than five years a chance to legalize their status and, eventually, to become U.S. citizens if they pay a fine and meet a series of requirements. Other rules would apply to those who have been in the country less than five years but more than two years. Illegal immigrants who arrived after Jan. 7, 2004, the date of a major Bush speech on immigration reform, would be required to return to their home countries, where they could apply for temporary worker visas. ...

Like previous bills, the agreement would authorize the hiring of 12,000 new border patrol agents, deploy new technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles, require tamper-proof identification cards that would replace easily forged Social Security cards used now to obtain work and ratchet up penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Why that date? Did the speech suddenly replace English and actual legal entry as the primary requirement for citizenship? And while we're dissecting this plan, does anyone notice that they seem to have forgotten something in this compromise? Perhaps the New York Times can shed some light on this:

Mr. Frist was swiftly confronted by angry conservatives who threatened the prospects for the compromise, which had been carefully cobbled together after days of difficult negotiations. They were particularly angry that Democrats were blocking efforts to get votes on several amendments.

One amendment would require the Department of Homeland Security to certify that the border was secure before creating a guest worker program or granting legal status to illegal immigrants. Another would have the legalization program bar illegal immigrants who had deportation orders or had been convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors.

Democrats said those amendments would gut the legislation, and added that they still needed detailed assurances from Mr. Frist and others that Republicans would defend the agreement in the face of strong conservative opposition when House and Senate negotiators sit down to reconcile their bills.

Let me get this straight. Blocking entry to felons and securing the border will "gut" this immigration "reform" act? It's hard to imagine a worse set of circumstances than what exists now, but actually endorsing the entry of felons into the country while deliberately blocking efforts to secure the borders manages to soar far over that threshold. It moves the entire agreement from satire to farce.

And, I note, nowhere in either paper does the word fence get mentioned.

Let me be very clear on this point. I have no real problems with a program that identifies existing migrant workers and puts them on a citizenship track, assuming they pay their back taxes and a fine for breaking the law, once the border is secured. But security has to come first. It's the primary reason for government to exist! In aan annual budget of $2.77 trillion dollars, it is beyond embarrassment that we cannot muster the political will to enforce our own law at the border. Then again, I suppose that building roads to replace railroads that we just built must take priority over silly little things like, oh, ensuring that terrorists don't stroll across the Rio Grande.

The House has to stand firm on this point. Securing our border has to be the prerequisite of any reform effort. If the Senate cannot rise to the defense of American sovereignty and the security of our borders during wartime, then let the entire Congress come to a standstill until they discover their testicular fortitude. Nothing they will consider jointly has any higher priority than this issue, and if they cave this badly on this, God help us on any other part of the conservative agenda.

I guarantee you that Republicans who vote for this compromise can consider retirement, because none of them will ever advance to higher office after this. Why would we trust Bill Frist or John McCain with the presidency when they roll over on security and sovereignty as Senators?

UPDATE: Mark at RedState says this is where he gets off. Power Line has a poll up; be sure to cast your vote.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 6, 2006 9:58 PM

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To secure the border, the bill calls for a virtual fence — as opposed to the literal barrier contained in House legislation — consisting of surveillance cameras, sensors and other monitoring equipment along the long, porous border with Mexi... [Read More]

Tracked on April 7, 2006 6:36 AM


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