Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Playing Catch-Up: Immigration Reform Dead?

by Kyle Michaelis
Now almost two weeks ago, the Omaha World-Herald quoted 2nd District Republican Congressman Lee Terry declaring Immigration reform all but dead in 2006. The World-Herald reported:
Rep. Lee Terry had a succinct view Wednesday about House Republican leaders' decision to hold field hearings this summer on the volatile issue of immigration before trying to compromise with the Senate.

"I think it signals it's dead," the Nebraska Republican said of chances for a major immigration overhaul this year.

Other Midlands lawmakers weren't as blunt. But most suggested that the GOP move would make it more difficult to get a bill through Congress at a time when most Americans are clamoring for tougher border enforcement to block large numbers of people entering the United States illegally.

The House passed a border enforcement bill. The Senate version of the immigration bill included a guest worker plan and a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants. The two bodies haven't been willing to compromise....

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., interpreted the hearings as a signal the House had given up on passing what he called an "amnesty" and guest worker program this year.

Proponents of the Senate bill dispute the amnesty label, saying that undocumented immigrants would have to go through a lengthy process before having a shot at citizenship.

"Once again, the do-everything approach has succeeded in doing nothing," Nelson said. "While Washington regroups, the borders remain open, just as they have for the past decade"....

Terry welcomed the hearings, noting that they "show what should have been done in the first place."

But he sees little chance that anything on immigration will pass this year, although he says it's still possible.

"It's also possible Nebraska will beat USC and Texas," he said of the upcoming college football season. "I'm just not predicting that."

Well, the real story here is not Lee Terry's opinion or his mockery of Nebraska's football team. Rather, it's that it seems that Sen. Nelson was right all along about the prospects for immigration reform this year. Since this issue came to a head this spring, Nelson has been predicting the House and Senate measures could not be reconciled and would result in another year of doing nothing about border security.

So, basically, I need to give Nelson and his staff credit for being so on top of this issue and for understanding just how little willpower there is in Washington D.C. to tackle the full breadth of reforms needed to bring sense to our immigration policy.

Still, I think it's important to acknowledge that the real failure here is on the part of President Bush in exhibiting the leadership to either a)accept the amnesty provisions for what they are and level with the American people as to why they are necessary or b)make an absolute promise to resolve this nation's immigration dilemma in a compassionate and comprehensive manner as soon as we get the borders secured. But, Bush lacks the political courage to succeed in the former and the trustworthiness to succeed in the latter. He's unwilling to stake his Presidency on the issue and to take on his Party's far-right fringe, leaving a vacuum in leadership from which no progress can be made.

Nelson is right that the do-everything approach too often results in doing-nothing, but doing-nothing might still be preferrable to a piecemeal approach without the follow-up and leadership to ensure that necessary reforms are enacted.

If we had an entire Congress of Senators and Representatives like Nelson who are interested in gettting things done and who were willing to work across party lines, this wouldn't be such a problem. But, as things stand now, we have dysfunctional one-party domination that, absent significant shake-ups this November, will only continue to let the most urgent problems facing our nation grow to the point of disaster.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle -
Not only was Nelson right, Now Bush is coming around to his position. The NY Times reports that Bush is signaling he will accept a compromise that puts border security first.
So its out with the Hagel compromie and in with the Nelson plan. HAgel is probably going to rip his own butt off when Nelson ends up being right. Here's to hoping he has a firm grasp on each cheek.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

Thanks for the link - hadn't seen that article. Still, if Bush backs off from opening a pathway to citizenship entirely, that's not a victory I'll be celebrating. It may prove Nelson's political acumen, but it will also be a sacrifice of millions of immigrant laborers and their families to the most reactionary element of the Republican right.

I just wish I had more faith that should action finally be taken to secure the border, Nelson would put his proven understanding of this issue to work in crafting a plan that humanely deals with those whose dreams for a a better life have been so exploited by American corporations. But, so long as politicians live in fear of that Scarlet Letter ("A" for Amnesty), this entire debate is going to remain completely out-of-whack.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to comment on another failure of Bush AND of all of Congress ... the deafening silence around the Mexican Presidency election! How can they, in the midst of all the Immigration Reform hype, be completely silent about this closely contested election? Particularly when one candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has made rebuilding Mexico's economic and job infrastructure and combatting political corruptionm center points of his campaign?

I understand it may not be politic to pick a side and publically root for them, but to ignore the importance of the role of the Mexican government in securing economic and social supports for its citizens and instead focus only on the issues of amnesty vs. fences is gross negligence and posturing. It unfortunately also demonstrates that the American populace in general can be counted on to be completely ignorant of world events. If they weren't, our representatives and president would have HAD to incorporated the Mexican election into the discussion.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

They don't want to talk about the Mexican election....they're quietly hoping that Lopez Obrador gets the same bum's rush that Gore and then Kerry got from questionable electioneering. They've already found loads of ballots dumped in the garbage in areas known to be for Lopez Obrador.

Regarding immigration, Thom Hartmann had an excellent piece "Reclaiming the Issues: "It's an Illegal Employer Problem" posted at Common Dreams that makes all of the border fence and deportation and amnesty talk seem foolish.


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