If Immigration Reform is Dead, Blame Gang of Eight, White House

By Joe Guzzardi
September 23. 2013

Since June when the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744, reform has on alternate summer weeks been reported as a certainty and then declared dead as a door nail. Last week’s resignations of Reps. Sam Johnson and John Carter from the House Gang of 7 brings the remaining total down to five, too few to bring a bipartisan immigration agreement to the table and a possible death blow to reform. Idaho’s Raul Labrador quit months ago.

Johnson and Carter said the main reason they cut bait is because the public has no confidence in the White House to enforce immigration law despite Senate language that pledges to fund $46 billion to shore up the border. The Texas Republicans added that President Obama has waived deportation for certain illegal immigrants though prosecutorial discretion and deferred action for childhood arrivals, a signal that he can’t be trusted.

As reform prospects fade, critics misguidedly point their fingers at Republicans. The fault, however, lies with Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and Chuck Schumer, two over-reaching Democrats. The bill Leahy’s committee approved and the Senate passed rejected every reasonable enforcement amendment. Schumer didn’t toss Republicans the leanest bone that they would have been willing to take to conference.

In the weeks leading up to the Senate vote, the GOP had indicated readiness to deal on immigration. Hand-wringing Republicans hoped to make inroads with Hispanic voters even though evidence shows that the Hispanic bloc is core Democratic.

For example, consider Senator John McCain. During his 30-year congressional career, McCain staunchly advocated for Hispanic causes. In 2005, he introduced the Kennedy-McCain Immigration Act. Nevertheless, come 2008, Obama won the Hispanic vote by a 2-1 ratio.

Another reason reform is on life support is because in 2008 proponents elected the wrong man. Assume that McCain, an avowed amnesty supporter, had won. McCain would be sitting in the White House, presiding over a Republican House eager to advance his urging for reform, and would then send a bill to the Democratic-controlled Senate for slam dunk passage.

Other insurmountable obstacles doomed reform. Amnesty, as much as Capitol Hill ballyhoos it, doesn’t play well back home, and the recent boatload of negative economic data explains why.

Among adult workers, 36 percent either don’t have jobs or aren’t looking for work, a higher figure than at any time since the Carter administration. For many of the employed, some out of desperation have taken jobs in the minimum wage service industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 16 percent of fast food jobs go to teenagers. For adults over age 25, nearly 43 percent have at least some college education, including 753,000 with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Only on out-of-touch Capitol Hill could the unfounded, outrageous argument be made that while America struggles to produce enough jobs to match population growth, Congress should pass an illegal immigrant amnesty.

Although reform is gasping for breath, I’ll inject a cautionary note: Immigration advocacy will likely never end although some analysts predict that after the current failure the immigration issue may vanish until 2017. Their assumption is that immigration is too toxic to inject into the 2014 mid-term or the 2016 presidential elections.

Reform’s long-term fate could be decided by whether pro-immigration Senate incumbent Republicans like Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander and South Carolina’s Lindsay Graham, both S. 744 co-signatories, lose their 2014 re-election bid. If that happens, reform could be a non-starter for at least 3 years.

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Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org

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