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May 14, 2006
Democrats To Attack Right Flank On Immigration

A short report by Dan Balz in today's Washington Post gives a warning to the Republicans about the likely battle over immigration should Congress fail to pass reform legislation in this session. Democratic centrists plan to argue that the Bush administration has failed to enforce existing immigration laws in an effort to peel hard-line immigration conservatives away from the GOP:

A new analysis by the centrist Democratic group Third Way concludes that the administration has failed to enforce existing laws and that the president should be held accountable for those failures in the political debate now raging in Washington.

"The report shows that the administration, despite their tough talk, is failing at border security and enforcing the employer sanctions provision," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said. "It makes them vulnerable in what is their biggest and strongest argument -- that they are enforcing the law against illegal workers and are effective on border security."

According to the report, federal data show that the number of agents more than doubled between 1995 and 2005, but that border apprehensions have fallen about 31 percent. From fiscal 1996 to fiscal 2000, apprehensions averaged 1.52 million a year. The number fell to an average of 1.05 million from fiscal 2001 to fiscal 2004.

Away from the border, a similar pattern has occurred, with apprehensions falling an estimated 36 percent. "This decline trend and low overall total suggests that illegal immigrants who escape beyond the border are more or less here to stay if they choose," according to the report.

The group also plans to highlight the poor track record of the White House in prosecuting offending businesses which hire illegal aliens. Balz gives no numbers, but ICE has a list of prosecutions it has conducted since the agency's inception. It discusses twelve cases spanning the three years of its operation, hardly a robust record in hiring enforcement.

It would appear that the Republicans have no small vulnerability in this regard, a point made repeatedly by conservative immigration critics over the past few years. However, it would appear even more ridiculous for the Democrats to insist that they would improve the situation. Their party leadership has fervently opposed border security reform, and most of them have argued for a complete general amnesty to match that of the notorious Simpson-Mazzoli bill that got us where we are today. Their last presidential candidate, John Kerry, argued for amnesty, and his partner from Massachussetts, Ted Kennedy, appeared at illegal-immigration rallies to support their opposition to border enforcement. While some Republicans have turned themselves into squishes on this topic, chiefly John McCain, the Democrats have actively courted illegal aliens.

Only the truly benighted would ever believe that the Democrats would crack down on border security and start massive roundups of illegal immigrants. The Third Way has a good point about immigration enforcement over the past five years, but their proposed solution amounts to total surrender rather than a renewed effort at enforcing the law.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 14, 2006 8:02 AM

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