April 7, 2006

Goodbye D.C., Hello Baghdad

Hatched by Dafydd

I cannot, will not join in this Snoopy dance of glee at the complete inability of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to come to agreement on a very fair and reasonable immigration compromise. Every single substantive objection on either side can be fixed. The fixes are not difficult to find. There is only one objection that is insurmountable: liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans appear have allied to force the bill to collapse.

One of those two groups is rationally pursuing its own self interest; it will actually benefit at the ballot box if the effort collapses completely. Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) is not in that group. The reality is that if this bill ends up collapsing, it will cause Republicans to lose seats in the House and Senate in November... which hurts conservatives in Congress a heck of a lot more than it hurts Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) or Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas).

It's unfathomable to me that men and women who belong to the world's most exclusive club, what it pleases them to call "the greatest deliberative body in the world," are congenitally incapable of deliberating. Instead they posture, the proclaim, they throw hysterical tantrums. They act more like the Shia in the Iraqi National Assembly than like grown-up adults who actually care about America. Goodbye, D.C., and hello Baghdad.

The deal has collapsed (at least for the moment) because of conservative Republican attempts to amend the bill (two amendments in particular) and the Democrats' filibuster of those amendments. So let's start with the amendments themselves.

In theory, they're not bad; but the devil once again lurks (as usual) in the details:

One amendment would have required the Department of Homeland Security to certify that the border was secure before creating a guest worker program or granting legal status to illegal immigrants. Another would have had the legalization program bar illegal immigrants who had deportation orders or had been convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors. Democratic critics of the proposals said they were intended to ensure that the legalization process would never be implemented.

Gosh, who could argue with those? What possible reason could there be not to -- all right, let's actually think a second time about each:

Require certification of border security before implementing immigration reform

Fine. I have no objection to the theory, but -- how exactly does the amendment define "secure?" Does this mean the DHS has only to certify that the wall and fence have been properly built? Or does it mean he must guarantee that it's impossible for even a single illegal to cross the border? If the latter, that could not be legally certified in a hundred years.

Do conservatives offer this amendment in order to advance the issue, or to kill the entire bill? If they're being honest about it, they will be willing to negotiate exactly what constitutes "secure" enough for the DHS to certify. They will offer standards that can actually be satisfied within a reasonable timeframe, say two to three years. Honest Democrats are willing to negotiate those standards, to make sure they allow certification within two or three years -- not thirty or forty, or never.

But if either side simply wants to collapse the entire effort, it's easy enough: just insist upon the impossible -- either a level of security that can never be achieved, or refuse to require any such certification whatsoever, which is equally unreasonable.

Permanently bar from citizenship illegals who have been deported or been convicted of felonies or multiple misdemeanors

Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with this idea; but it can easily be turned into a poison pill. For example... do they include under the deportation clause immigrants deported for no reason other than having been caught? If so, it's absurd: this part of the bill is already directed solely at persons illegally in the country. Are they really saying we only want as citizens those illegals clever enough not to have been nabbed? What is it, a proxy IQ test?

Or by "deported," do they mean those deported for reasons much stronger than "you were caught here illegally?" If they mean the latter, then conservatives must spell out exactly what deportation reasons provoke the permanent ban.

And felonies are one thing; but three misdemeanors? Do they really mean that if an immigrant was a stupid teenager twenty years ago, and if he went on a one-night spree knocking over garbage cans and got convicted of three counts of malicious mischief, that he is forever barred from becoming a citizen? That is quite literally insane.

If conservatives have any interest at all in actually coming to some agreement, they must be willing to negotiate exactly what criminal convictions and reasons for deportation will permanently bar citizenship.

Democrats who want a bill will be willing to allow a vote on such a list of crimes. This requires all Democrats to go on record either saying they want to let murderers and rapists into the country... or else accepting that some people won't qualify for citizenship because of bad character. But moderate Democrats will agree to both amendments (or at least agree to vote on them), if they are reasonable and spelled out in detail.

Who's got hand?

The distinction is this: if the liberal Democrats negotiate in bad faith and manage to force a collapse, they win at the ballot box. If the conservative Republicans force collapse through sheer pigheadedness and refusal to compromise... then they lose in November.

But the conservatives are driving the bus right now; they've got the upper hand. If they negotiate in good faith, they have the power to force a successful resolution. The moderate Republicans are already on board, and 55 Republicans need only five Democrats to stop a filibuster.

In the last test on Wednesday night, an even tougher vote against cloture on the Democratic version of immigration reform got (surprise!) four moderate Democrats and one Democratic nutcase to vote with the Republicans:

Voting against cloture were all 55 Republicans (including co-sponsors McCain and Specter) and five Democrats, who stiffed their own party boss, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace): Robert Byrd (WV), Ben Nelson (NE), Bill Nelson (FL), Kent Conrad (ND), and Byron Dorgan (ND). Of this group, only Sen. Dorgan is not running for reelection this year... and he may have felt obliged to support his fellow NoDak, Kent Conrad, who is.

So here is the stark choice:

  1. If conservative Republicans are willing to negotiate their amendments in good faith, they'll be joined by moderate Republicans and enough moderate Democrats to overcome any filibuster, allowing reasonable changes to strengthen enforcement in the immigration reform bill.
  2. Contrariwise, if the conservatives insist upon unreasonable amendments, they won't get the Democrats; in which case, they will be unable to amend the bill at all, because they can't break Harry Reid's filibuster without Democratic votes.
  3. Without amendment, the bill collapses... which benefits only the liberal Democrats -- not the conservatives, the moderate Republicans, or even the moderate Democrats.
  4. Victory or defeat is entirely in the hands of conservatives: if they will negotiate in good faith, they (and the country) will win. If they insist upon "my way or the highway," everybody loses -- except Reid and Pelosi, of course.

People must understand that conservatives are a minority in Congress, as they are in the country. They cannot simply cram a pure-enforcement bill down everybody's throat. It's not in the cards; it won't happen.

If they try hard, however, they can gain enough support to make reasonable changes:

  • Define what it means for the border to be "secure" and make it reasonable enough that it's just two or three years away -- not thirty or forty.
  • Define exactly what crimes bar citizenship, so we don't end up with mass numbers of people being denied for trivial offenses that even many sitting members of Congress have committed.

With those amendments and perhaps a few others -- emphasis on reasonable -- they can get on with the negotiation and light this candle. They can actually achieve something.

Or they can clench their fists and refuse to back down even an inch. They can become the most Do-Nothing Congress since the 80th in 1948, as Hugh Hewitt likes to say. Like the Shia in Baghdad, they can bring democracy to a screeching halt.

Until November.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 7, 2006, at the time of 6:34 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

You seem to want all these ammendments spelled out in detail, to prevent these "poison pills" you seemed to be so afraid of, so tell us, please

What makes the Legistlature you DO support different from the Amnestys of the Past that helped create this mess?

Oh and what do you suggest if this New attempt by Congress is a total flop and few show up to register?

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2006 7:25 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Dan Kauffman:

What makes the Legistlature you DO support different from the Amnestys of the Past that helped create this mess?

You mean apart from the fact that this is not an amnesty?

Many conservatives are manipulating the definition of the word "amnesty" in exactly the same way that the liberals manipulate the definition of "civil war," and for exactly the same reason: to avoid actually confronting the arguments against the "enforcement only" position.

"Amnesty" means forgiveness without punishment. Conservatives have redefined it to mean less punishment than they were hoping to see (if they don't want mass deportations of millions of people, what on Earth do they want?)

It's time for everyone to drop the term, whose only function is to confuse the discussion and divert it into meaningless detours.

What makes this legislation -- as it would be amended if the conservatives choose to play fair -- different from the 1986 Reagan amnesty is that:

  • It authorizes a 700-mile fence;
  • An amendment would require that border security be certified before the regularization of illegals kicks in;
  • The illegals have to pay a fine and all back taxes;
  • They have to learn English and wait many years before they become legal permanent residents, let alone citizens;
  • It rationalizes the immigration procedure itself, not just for the illegals already here but for new, legal immigrants;
  • It creates a guest worker program separate from the immigration track.

I've discussed all of these in detail in previous posts. None of these was part of the 1986 program.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2006 9:06 PM

The following hissed in response by: RBMN

The people that tick me off are the idiots who say, "if we can find all these illegals to give them a guest worker card, we should just deport them all instead."

How about if we just deport any babbling moron, citizen or not, that utters a stupid statement like that? It’s impossible (without Communist China or Nazi Germany methods) to "round up" and deport 12-million people that don't want to be "rounded up" and deported. Impossible! It can only be done with carrots, maybe--certainly not with sticks.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2006 10:20 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

It’s impossible (without Communist China or Nazi Germany methods) to "round up" and deport 12-million people that don't want to be "rounded up" and deported. Impossible! It can only be done with carrots, maybe--certainly not with sticks.
Not true, it would be as you say if you wanted it done overnight, we would have to erect concentration camps etc, but they did not all get here overnight it took about 20 years, if it takes 20 years to deport all of them, so be it

Dry up illegal employment start putting business owners in prison and start putting those who aid and abet them in prison, get rid of the incentive to enter illegally, no illegal jobs, THEN start rounding up illegals at a managable rate and deport them.

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2006 11:11 PM

The following hissed in response by: patrick neid

one of the chief reasons all previous immigration reform has failed, and this one will also, is we combine border security with the specific details and amendments to remedy the causes and effects of illegal immigration. my hope is that over the two week easter break the congress people will get a earful from their base. it is very clear that the majority of folks want a fence--not just 700 miles--put up first before we move on to the more difficult discussions.

the canard about the fence being too expensive is being put aside what with the cost of 10 billion for a levy system around new orleans, that will surely flood again, to protect 500,000 residents
vs a fence to protect 300 million against the associated costs of rampant illegal immigration. we have to concentrate our efforts on rapidly erecting a fence.


we are now in our fourth week of this discussion, meanwhile 40,000 more have crossed the border. after the fence we can discuss the pros and cons of punitive enforcement issues etc--not before!

The above hissed in response by: patrick neid [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 8, 2006 8:11 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


Concentration camps? Hell, why not just shoot them?

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 8, 2006 2:46 PM

The following hissed in response by: cdquarles


It is hard enough to run a business as it is now, and you propose to imprison business owners (and managers?) for trying to balance competing laws. Businesses cannot be police agents. In case you've never dealt with the EEOC, an EEOC action against an employer is worse than an ICE action. EEOC rules require businesses that do pay for background checks do this for every prospective employee (can you say 'profiling') and they cannot reject any document (SS card, etc.) that said prospective employees provide (whether bonafide or not). The last time I checked, background checks were not free. Also, the employees sign I9 forms, under penalty of perjury for signing the forms with false tax ID info (I wonder how many folks have been prosecuted for this offense). Dafydd's smart card proposal makes perfect sense. Swipe a smart card, match, 99% of the time ok. Swipe a smart card, no match, 99% of the time not ok.

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 18, 2006 8:29 PM

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