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November 9, 2006
Amnesty On The Front Burner

George Bush announced yesterday that he would focus on areas of consensus with the new Democratic majority, and one of those areas would naturally be comprehensive immigration reform. The Republicans in the House blocked Bush's plans for the normalization of more than twelve million illegal aliens within the US in this session of Congress, although the Senate approved it. Now with Democratic majorities in place in both chambers, the border fence approved, and anti-amnesty forces marginalized, Bush can complete his efforts:

President Bush yesterday said he will team up with Democrats to pass an immigration bill with a guest-worker program that his own party blocked this year, and his Republican opponents predicted a bloody intraparty fight but said they cannot stop such a bill from passing.

"We will fight it, we will lose. It will go to the Senate, it will pass. The president will sign it. And it will happen quickly because that's one thing they know they can pass," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican and chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, who had led the opposition to a guest-worker plan. "I am absolutely horrified by this prospect, but I have to face reality."

Mr. Bush supported a bipartisan majority in the Senate this year that passed a broad immigration bill including a new worker program and citizenship rights for millions of illegal aliens. But House Republicans blocked those efforts, calling them an amnesty, and instead forced through a bill to erect nearly 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Tuesday's elections removed that obstacle by turning control of the House over to Democrats. Yesterday, in an afternoon press conference, the president said he shares Democrats' vision on immigration and will try again for a broad bill. "There's an issue where I believe we can find some common ground with the Democrats," he said.

Bush now has to face the reality of DC under Democratic control, and this step was utterly predictable. Bush has never pretended to be anything but a moderate on immigration reform, and his party repeatedly frustrated his attempts to build a bipartisan solution.

The anti-amnesty forces can thank themselves for this situation to some extent. I warned about carrying grudges past the primaries and in campaigning against Republican incumbents in the general election on single-issue bases. Nevertheless, many activists kept campaigning against lists of Representatives and Senators on the charge of betrayal against the nation on this very issue -- and they got their wish, in most cases. I know because I would get two or three e-mails a day outlining every outrage committed by an illegal alien and the list of "traitors" who wanted to support comprehensive reform, a deluge that got so tiresome that I added the senders to my spam filter, with only spotty results.

In any event, this new effort is moderated by the new law requiring the US to build barriers and to bolster enforcement at the border. Republicans pushed that through before the midterm elections, and those will help slow down the wave of illegals crossing the border. The next step for Bush will be to revive the Senate proposal from earlier this year, which will normalize the status of most illegals and create a path to citizenship for them.

If we successfully tighten border security to eliminate the vast majority of illegal entries, then normalization may be the best path to take. It allows the illegals to come out of the shadows and gives us an accounting of the true scope of the problem. Sunlight also means we will know who people are, an important point for national security concerns and something that would never happen as long as we keep them on the run. There will still be people who violate the amnesty/normalization agreement, but it drastically reduces the law-enforcement problem from 12 million or so to probably something in the low six figures.

Normalization or amnesty will anger many Republicans, and that's understandable. However, it's simply a lesson in what happens when a ruling party rejects the big-tent approach and becomes the minority party.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 9, 2006 5:51 AM

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