Playing Catch-Up: Immigration Reform Dead?by Kyle Michaelis
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.