In a very rare visit to the press cabin of Air Force One yesterday, President Barack Obama told reporters that the White House will not be leading any immigration reform efforts in 2010. Obama said: “…I’ve been working Congress pretty hard. So I know, there may not be an appetite immediately to dive into another controversial issue.” Obama went on to assert that energy taxes were a higher priority, and that the election in November would make tackling immigration tough.
Apparently, Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t heed the President’s advice. Several hours later, Reid, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and their colleagues from the left introduced an immigration reform framework that on the surface is identical to the legislation America rejected in 2007. When you dig down, it may be worse.
Of course, once introduced, President Obama issued a statement that his administration would take “an active role” toward ironing out the details. This confusing flip-flopping from the White House is indicative of how the administration has treated border security and immigration reform since taking office. Even Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed saying: “If there is going to be any movement in this regard, it will require presidential leadership.”
Effective reforms can be done in a responsible and deliberate manner through discrete steps rather than another bloated bill that hides from the American people what Washington is trying to do to gain even more power and authority over its citizens. What is required is a step-by-step approach, not an ill-conceived “framework” disguised as “comprehensive” reform.
An appropriate solution would reject amnesty; apply appropriate security to the border; work as a partner with Mexico in helping them address economic and civil society reform and combating transnational crime; enforce workplace and immigration laws in partnership with state and local governments; pilot effective temporary worker programs that help employers get the employees they need to help grow the economy; and reform our visa, immigration and citizenship services.
The Reid-Schumer plan does not accomplish these goals. Their proposal adds a lot more government and bureaucracy (and government spending) while doing little to actually ensure over the long-term the sovereignty, security and prosperity of the nation. It is another example of government taking the short term view of long-term problems.
The Reid-Schumer framework puts an emphasis on amnesty, with empty promises of border security. Granting amnesty, access to welfare and government benefits and citizenship to all who claim they were in the United States at time of enactment of this proposal could cover 11 to 15 million people and overwhelm our borders with people looking to take part. And forgiving such violations would increase the likelihood that these laws be violated again. When you throw in family members, the total number of those eligible for citizenship through amnesty could then be 17 to 22 million individuals.
While Senate Democrats pay lip service to border security, this proposal lacks meaningful metrics for determining “when” the border is secure. It relies on an unelected commission to determine whether we are safe and secure.
And maybe most troubling is the call for a biometric national id card, thinly disguised as a more robust Social Security card. Reid and Schumer are ignoring many legitimate on-going or proposed efforts including E-Verify, Social Security no-match verification and information sharing, and REAL ID in favor of an expansive and expensive program of questionable value as an appropriate enforcement tool.
There are better alternatives:
- We need a temporary worker program. One that is in fact temporary, market-oriented and feasible. A balanced and well-constructed program would provide an additional option or legal temporary workers, while diminishing the incentives for illegal entry. Congress must ensure it resolves issues of family status, require bilateral agreements, include triggers, provide economic incentives, contain caps and resists unwieldy government excess.
- We must remember the American economy. No solution in this debate comes without an economic impact, whether through increased government services, unemployment or states shouldering unfunded mandates. Our immigration policy should encourage a growing economy, not expand the welfare state as we know it. Congress must consider these fiscal costs and benefits.
- Above all, our first priority is national security. No other reforms are possible without a complete, and strict, security apparatus. From the point of origin, to transit, to the border, to within the United States – we require a system of protection that has gone needed for too long. If our borders remain porous and open, if our border states continue to suffer from unwarranted crime, if our laws go unenforced, then this contentious debate will only be a precursor to another and likely more disruptive process in the future.
We are a nation of immigrants. The Statue of Liberty stands as a testament to our desire to create an environment welcoming to all men and women who yearn for freedom and prosperity. We are a self selected class of people who see greater opportunity available through smaller government, economic freedom, religious and social tolerance and a shared responsibility of security and safety. It is no surprise that people from other nations would yearn for what we may sometimes take for granted. Reforming our broken immigration system should not set aside these aspirations, but embrace them.
- Congressmen Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) sent General Motors CEO Ed Whitacre a letter accusing him of running “false advertisements” that “constitute a lie to the American people.” GM has been running ads that claim they have repaid government loans in full, when in fact, they’ve only paid back 10%.
- One of the chief Republican negotiators for financial regulatory reform, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), has denounced the Dodd-Obama bill, saying the worst provisions remain in the legislation and “It will lead to job losses, lost opportunities for businesses to productively invest in the future, and it will ensure future bailouts.”
- Amidst the debate on financial regulatory reform, Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will head to Park Avenue this weekend for big ticket Wall Street fundraisers.
- Last night, The House of Representatives voted 223-169 to pass a bill allowing Puerto Rico to vote on its relationship with the United States. The measure now heads to the Senate.
- President Obama and Vice President Biden have both interviewed Appeals Court Judge Sidney Thomas of the nation’s most liberal court, the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, for the Supreme Court opening.