Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Montana's Senators vote right on immigration bill amendment

Unfortunately, other than the ever-reliable Sen. Tom Coburn of OK, joined by Sen. Vitter of LA, most Republicans failed to vote for an amendment offered by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, to strike the "Y" nonimmigrant guestworker program from the comprehensive immigration "reform" bill.

The amendment failed 64-31, with 18 Democrats and 46 Republicans voting to kill it. "It is just a fiction that these are jobs Americans aren't willing to do," Dorgan said. "The main reason that big corporations want a guest worker program is that it will drive down U.S. wages."

This was a good amendment representing critical concerns, and more than two Republicans should have supported it, to put it mildly.

There are, of course, some last-minute attempts to throw what is supposed to look like red meat to conservatives:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., plans to propose instituting mandatory prison sentences for foreigners caught crossing the border illegally. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., wants to add language to the measure declaring English the country's official language.

This isn't red meat -- it's a couple of sticks of Slim Jim at best. Our prisons are already overcrowded, and in the face of a terrible bill like this, what our country's official language is has all of the substantive appeal of a flag-burning amendment.

The conservative base has learned its lesson on this particular ploy, and isn't buying it. The biggest problems with this bill are its major provisions: an amnesty provision that penalizes would-be immigrants who are obeying the law, large numbers of guest workers that will drive down domestic wages, overly broad preferences to extended families rather than immigration policies that target key needed skills, and lack of strong provisions for enforcing existing laws.

What isn't clear yet is how many conservative Republican Senators voted to kill this amendment, not because they disagreed with it, but because they hope that leaving the guest-worker program in will be a "poison pill" that will unite most of those 29 Democrats with them to kill the entire bill. Killing the entire bill may be the only way to prevent the mass amnesty provision in the bill, and Democratic votes will be needed.

This bill has been compared to the amnesty bill that Ronald Reagan signed in 1986, when 3 million illegal immigrants were given amnesty with the hope that "comprehensive measures" would control the borders. As Reagan wrote in his diary at the time:

It’s high time we regained control of our borders and this bill will do this.

Of course, now we have somewhere between 12 and 20 million illegal immigrants, so apparently that amnesty bill didn't work -- and this bill is even more toothless than was that one. Former Attorney General Ed Meese wrote last year that the administration believed at the time that their legislation would stem the tide of illegal immigrants, largely through employer sanctions:

In exchange for allowing aliens to stay, (Reagan) decided, border security and enforcement of immigration laws would be greatly strengthened — in particular, through sanctions against employers who hired illegal immigrants. If jobs were the attraction for illegal immigrants, then cutting off that option was crucial.

Whoops. As Montana Headlines wrote when bills relating to illegal immigration were pending before the Montana legislature, this is an issue where rank-and-file Republicans and rank-and-file Democrats should be able to find common cause. If 600,000 legal guest workers disturb the labor unions that backed Dorgan's amendment, then shouldn't 12 to 20 million illegal workers disturb them even more? Not to mention the flood of additional illegal immigrants that will be drawn by the promise of future amnesty, just as past amnesty measures have.

This a good start for Montana's Senators, even though the amendment failed. Let's hope that they will continue voting in accordance with the views of most Montanans when amendments for tougher enforcement provisions and other common-sense measures come before the Senate.

When the bill is up for its final vote, if it is as bad as it looks like it will be -- let's hope that Sens. Baucus and Tester stick by their early commitment to oppose amnesty and insist that would-be immigrants "get in line" with everyone else, and follow the laws of the United States of America. In so doing, they will be standing with ordinary working Americans of both parties, who overwhelmingly hold exactly those positions.

Mickey Kaus's prediction that this will be President Bush's self-destructive domestic equivalent of the Iraq war continues to gain credibility -- or as Bruce Bartlett put it more starkly today, it is a form of Republican Euthanasia.


ayn rand said...

I see that Jay over at loonie litw is absolutely breathless about the fact that Max might be taking talking points from the white house. No, numby, he is up for re-election and when he is, he waltzes back to Montana and sprints to the right. Get a grip.

Montana Headlines said...

Quite right. Baucus's vote doesn't surprise me -- after all, it's year 5 of his term, and it's time to start voting Republican.

Tester, on the other hand, will be more interesting to watch on the immigration issue, since he has 4 years to vote liberal before tacking right.

He may realize that it will take more than the Baucus 2-step forward and four step back routine for him to have a chance against Rehberg in 2012.

It is satisfying, though, to get at least 2 years good work out of a Dem like Baucus -- especially if it drives the netroots folks crazy.

Baucus knows how to count, though. He also knows that according to the netroots code, winning is everything, and he can count on the progressives to support him in the general election no matter what he does.

RightDemocrat said...

Americans need to unite against illegal immigration and free trade. It isn't right vs. left anymore but rather elitists versus working and middle class families.

Montana Headlines said...

RD -- you are exactly right.