On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee began its mark-up of the Gang of 8’s immigration legislation, considering more than 300 amendments filed on the bill. Supporters of the Gang’s amnesty legislation have a working 12-6 majority on the committee, ensuring that most Republican amendments to strengthen the bill will be rejected. In a telling first vote, however, two GOP Senators joined GOP “Gang” members and all committee Democrats to pass, by a vote of 14-4, a substitute amendment to the bill. It was a clear sign that the eventual bill will attract significant GOP support, absent a public outcry.
The first amendment offered on the “Gang” bill was a “managers’ amendment” offered by lead sponsor NY Sen. Chuck Schumer. The amendment made a number of technical changes to the bill and effectively replaced the existing nearly 900 page proposal. The language was first unveiled last week. Sens. Cornyn and Hatch joined Gang members Graham and Flake and all committee Democrats to pass the substitute.
Schumer’s amendment went beyond technical changes, however. It added almost 30 pages of legislative language to the proposal. It even created a new class of visa, allowing former immigrants on agricultural work visas who returned to their home country to immediately apply for legal status in the US. This isn’t a provision to bring illegal immigrants “out of the shadows,” but rather provides an entirely new stream of migration back into the US. The votes by Sens. Cornyn and Hatch to support the substitute suggest that a large number of Republican Senators will eventually support the Gang’s amnesty legislation.
Over the next two weeks, there will be a series of amendments to the legislation. Many of these are offered by Republicans and seek to tighten enforcement and border security. While these will all fail, they will provide members with a legislative record of trying to increase the security features of the legislation.
Sen. Sessions has fought a lonely crusade against the legislation. Sens. Paul, Lee and Cruz have criticized aspects of the proposal, but have been mostly muted in their criticism. One gets the sense that they oppose the legislation, but are looking for a public outcry to provide cover for their opposition.
The entire apparatus of the DC establishment is aligned to pass the Gang’s amnesty bill. The only power that can stop that is the American public. Unless it wakes up and engages, amnesty will be the new law of the land.