House Speaker John Boehner this past week again showed he will punish conservative House members for not supporting deals he strikes with President Obama and Nancy Pelosi. This does not bode well for the package of immigration bills to be debated on the House floor sometime after the July Fourth recess.
House Republicans have been writing and “marking up” more than a dozen immigration bills over the past year, and Republican leaders have been promising a “package of little bills” as an alternative to the “comprehensive” bills favored by the amnesty lobby.
Like so many other House GOP promises, that one now rings hollow.
While there may well be several immigration bills allowed to come to a vote, it is dishonest to call them a coherent or adequate alternative to the “Gang of Eight” amnesty bill that came from the Senate in 2013. With only a couple of exceptions, the House immigration bills coming from the House Judiciary Committee and elsewhere range from deficient to disastrous.
Yes, our immigration system is broken and needs reform. But you can’t reform an alcoholic by giving him a new key to Sam’s Liquor Warehouse.
Speaker Boehner and his team have no intention of allowing strong immigration enforcement bills to come to a vote on the House floor. The reasons for this continued stupidity are as transparent as they are onerous. The House Republican leadership continues to misread and misunderstand public opinion and the nation’s strong desire for both secure borders and interior enforcement.
Back in February, the House Republican leadership promised that at least four major immigration bills would be voted out of the Judiciary Committee by June, but the only bill we’ve actually seen emerge from a full committee is Rep. McCaul’s border security bill—and that came from the Homeland Security committee, not the Judiciary Committee. Other bills are still in markup or awaiting full committee votes.
But then we heard in May that no bills will be brought to the floor for a vote before House Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte has finished rewriting his bill to “streamline” the H-2A program for agricultural guest workers. His 2014 bill to reform the H-2A program was fatally flawed by inclusion of amnesty provisions borrowed from the Senate’s “Gang of Eight,” so it is hard to be optimistic about any H-2A “reform.”
Taking that subject as an example, I have no doubt that the H-2A agricultural guest worker program can be improved. Farmers in some regions have a legitimate need for seasonal foreign guest workers, and if that program can be made to work more efficiently, well and good. Let’s do it. But Big Farm lobbyists, like the pro-amnesty US Chamber of Commerce, keep insisting on tying H-2A reforms to thinly-disguised amnesty features. They have only themselves to blame for the lack of true reform.
About the only good news is that the basic Republican strategy of offering several individual bills to tackle specific problems is, in principle, the right approach. Each bill can be considered and voted on for its merits and not as a part of some 2,000-page incomprehensible “comprehensive reform” plan.
The bad news is that too many of those “little bills” are deeply flawed.
I am sorry to say that Rep. McCaul’s border security bill, H.R.399, is the biggest disappointment of them all. About 90 percent of Republicans and a solid majority of all citizens want real border security and don’t understand why Congress can’t deliver it. The answer is not an indictment of Congress, it is an indictment of the Republican majority now in control of the legislative agenda. House Republican leaders don’t have the courage to do it—not even in Texas.
The odd thing is that the McCaul bill identifies many of the key problems in border control, but it fudges the solutions in unacceptable ways. If House Republicans can’t get border security right, who will trust them on the other bills?
Of course, if you think 10,000 potential terrorists entering the country annually is an acceptable level of border control, you will be not be disturbed by Congress’s lackadaisical approach to border security. That’s the number of border crossers entering the United States annually from countries on the official government list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The danger here is obvious. Even if Congress passes and Obama signs a group of Republican-sponsored bills that appear to be steps in the right direction, we won’t know for two, three or four years if those bills make any real difference. Will Obama or his successor enforce them? Will Congress renege on key provisions the following year, as it did with the 2006 Border Fence bill? Meanwhile, it will be full speed ahead with the amnesty half of any “grand compromise.”
So, as we look ahead, there are two serious obstacles to passing meaningful immigration bills out of the Republican-majority US House of Representatives. One is the duplicitous marauder who lives in the White House, and the other a blind rogue elephant on Capitol Hill.
Happy July Fourth!