Illegal Immigration Bill: The Bush/Kennedy Bill is a Disaster in the Making

Another U.S. Senate bill on illegal immigration, another disaster in the making.
Michelle Malkin is doing her usual good work summarizing thoughts and reactions about the Senate’s new bill. See here and here. (And now here.)
Sometimes there is no need to invent new thoughts when prior thoughts say it all:
This morning’s publication of an Open Letter about immigration by leading conservatives prompted me to re-read a draft posting I had last edited on May 26. Here is that late-May posting:
Now that we have the Senate and House going into conference with the objective of negotiating a final bill out of two very different bills, it is worth taking a step back and asking ourselves: What are the big issues in this illegal immigration debate? In other words, what policies and values are at stake as those negotiations begin and where should we go from here?
Let me begin with an analogy:
Think back to when you were in elementary school. Remember the occasional kid who would not play by the rules? Now, in most cases, peer pressure corrected their aberrant behavior. But sometimes it did not. And, without the presence of teachers or school aides to adjudicate the situation, a bully could get away with uncivilized behavior and disrupt the peaceful actions of kids who were simply trying to play by the rules.
Now recall how you felt if you or your friends were taken advantage of: The bully was being unfair. Playing fair – by playing by the rules – is a key principle of American life. It is why we don’t like cheaters – in school, on the ball field, in business or in politics.
Whether we will play fair with illegal immigration concerns defines the core issue of this debate.
What the American people get – and many of the Washington politicians from both parties do not get – is that we understand this Senate bill is amnesty for lawbreakers. For corporate lawbreakers and for illegal alien lawbreakers. This bill rewards all of them for breaking the law by relieving them of any consequences for their past illegal actions. And it is no less troubling that the structural incentives of the bill will ensure future behaviors are equally reprehensible. All of this is unfair and wrong.
The Senate bill fails to codify a sense of fair play – aka the rule-of-law in legal terms – into public policies that enhance our ability to live together peacefully as a society. It is actually worse than that because it makes future societal conflict more likely.
These initial points also clarify what are NOT the big issues here. This is not about being racist or hating minorities, no matter how hard some amnesty advocates will push that shtick. All you have to do is read the postings on this blogsite, from well before the illegal immigration issue moved front-and-center, to know that many of us who are agitated about illegal immigration come from families that marched with and were outspokenly supportive of the noble cause led by Martin Luther King, Jr. And because this is a rule-of-law issue, it is also not a civil rights issue.
The American people see through all the moral preening by various parties and have cut to the heart of the matter. Under the status quo, they observe:

The government passes laws they have no intention of enforcing and grants benefits to people who have not earned them.
Businesses are willing to break the law in order to get cheap labor and increase their profits.
Unions are looking for easy marks to recruit for membership, thereby increasing their power.
Both political parties are willing to ignore serious and unresolved policy issues so they can maximize their chances of attracting more Hispanics to their respective parties.
Radicals – like many who organized the May 1 rallies – are promoting an anti-American vision of separatist identity politics completely disconnected from the Founding principles of our country.
Mexico is in political disarray, has an economy that does not generate enough jobs, and threatens to sue our country just for protecting our border.
Illegal immigrants (and many of their advocates) are effectively saying “I am here so deal it with it on my terms.”

Broadly speaking, there are national security, economic and cultural issues at stake here and none is being addressed with any rigor. The American people understand that a failure to deal effectively with any of the three issues diminishes the quality of our country’s life – and could even threaten its existence over time.
There are three specific policy issues at the center of this debate:

American sovereignty: Will we set our own laws about immigration as a country or will we let illegal aliens or foreign countries drive our laws?
Rule of law: Will we enforce fairly the laws on our books, thereby ensuring a consistent – and not corrupt – application of those laws?
Assimilation – Becoming an American citizen is an honor, not a right. We want all citizens to share that sense of honor. So, what does it mean to be an American citizen and how will immigrants be taught American history and the uniqueness of the American experiment in ordered liberty?

So where do we go from here? I would suggest several key points:

We need to transform immigration processes from dishonest to honest practices. The only way we will get to that point is if we first skewer the moral preeners and drive the debate to a focus on both the 3 broad issues (national security, economic, cultural) and the 3 specific policy issues (American sovereignty, rule-of-law, assimilation) mentioned above.
There is a consensus about the need for enforcement, both at the border and with employer compliance. We should begin there and do that right.
There is not a consensus on what to do next and the worst thing we can do is force another law onto the books that either makes no sense or will not be enforced. There is an analogy with the abortion issue. This country became polarized because the Supreme Court acted in a way that pre-empted a national debate from occurring, from allowing a broad consensus to develop. In its current form, this Senate bill is likely to lead to a similar outcome. The issues won’t go away; the passions will not diminish. But the debate will be stopped dead in its tracks and that will only polarize the country. There is much to discuss and we should conduct a reasoned debate at the national level about immigration issues – such as how to deal with the existing illegal aliens in our country, guest worker strategies, and so forth. If we did that, a national consensus would emerge. None of us would likely prefer every outcome but the odds are we could find a way to policies that are generally acceptable to most Americans.

My personal hope is that a more limited bill comes out of conference and we can then conduct a thoughtful public debate on how best to do the right thing and keep America strong. We owe nothing less to our children and to the future of America.
For more readings on the topic:
Identifying Four Core Issues Underlying the Immigration Debate
More Misguided Thinking From RIFuture & State Legislators on Illegal Immigration
Does The Rule Of Law & A Sense Of Fair Play Matter Anymore? The Debate About In-State Tuitions For Illegal Immigrants
Jennifer Roback Morse: Further Clarifying What is at Stake in the Illegal Immigration Debate

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17 years ago

I just want to know one thing. 1 in 3 Americans is now a member of a designated minority group. Do we still need quotas to help groups that consitute over one third of our population?

17 years ago

This bill establishes the hallmark for the onset of anarchy. It is a travesty.

17 years ago

And let us remember that Congress “reformed” our laws on illegal immigration in 1965 and 1986. But in fact, each time, Congress was only creating a bigger problem, requiring more “reform” down the road.
Our illegal immigration laws do not need to be reformed. We simply need to enforce the existing ones, especially those pertaining to employers.
While we should all continue calling and writing our Congressional delegation and the Senate leadership about this critical matter, I would caution against despair at this point. This is going to effectively require 60 votes to pass the Senate before it even gets to the House.

17 years ago

If our government fails us we will have no choice but to handle this issue ourselves…

17 years ago

Let’s fill up the bathtub, because this monster needs to be drowned quickly. I’m sickened by this.
This is the kind of thing that energizes conservatives. I just wish it wasn’t as a result of weak-willed Republicans caving in when they don’t have to.

Anchor Rising
17 years ago

And, Just In Case You Weren’t Already Upset Enough…

Another disgusting piece of information about the US Senate bill on illegal immigration trickles out: The Bush administration insisted on a little-noticed change in the bipartisan Senate immigration bill that would enable 12 million undocumented reside…

Anchor Rising
17 years ago

Simply Irresponsible

Forget for a minute the philosophical and policy objections to the new illegal immigration bill before the US Senate. Consider how the Senate debate on this enormously important matter is being rushed, as noted by Senator DeMint: The Senate is…

arturo fernandez
arturo fernandez
17 years ago

“Illegal immigrant lawbreakers”? “Corporate lawbreakers”? Give me a break. It is consumers, you and me and Anthony and Jim and Susan and Gary and Will, without whom illegal immigration would not exist.
We want low prices. It’s how we get low prices. The savings are passed on to us. “Corporate lawbreakers” know what we value. They give us that. It’s capitalism, and in America we’re for it.
Conservatives are such hypocrites.
Greg, be brave enough and spell-out your violent fantasies. Like I said, hypocrites.

17 years ago

Wrong, Arturo. Look at the “Made in” labels on everything. Prices are low because everything is made in countries where minimum wage is measured in pennies, not dollars.
We have excess illegal immigration because, inexplicably and unlike any other country on the planet, we have failed to enforce the pertinent laws. I have expressed a preference that enforcement concentrate on corporations that benefit from an illegal act. The correct thing to do, however, is to enforce all pertinent laws on everyone. If that is your preference, that’s fine with me.

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