Immigration has been electoral gold for Republicans in the last few elections cycles. As Democrats have moved increasingly in the direction of an amnesty-only approach to illegal immigration, Republicans at the federal and state level have succeeded by promising voters real immigration enforcement.
Running on that platform, Republicans captured both houses of Congress and the White House in 2016. Both in his campaign and as president, Donald Trump laid out a comprehensive list of reforms to halt illegal immigration and vowed to oppose any form of amnesty for those who violated our laws.
In 2018, as legislators prepare to face voters once again, Republicans have delivered nothing in the way of meaningful immigration enforcement legislation, but seem poised to pass legislation in the House that would grant amnesty to some 3.2 million illegal aliens (more than four times the number of people who received DACA protections), without even vague assurances that large-scale illegal immigration will be tamed.
A small group of House Republicans are teaming with a unified Democratic caucus to present a discharge petition to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), forcing him to bring an immigration bill to the floor. The bill that the rogue Republicans have settled on is the Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act, H.R. 4796, written by Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), which would grant full amnesty to all illegal aliens who entered the country as minors.
As for the American voters who entrusted Republicans with the full control of the federal government, the bill authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to study illegal immigration for 12 months. Yes, just what the American public has been hankering for: another government study!
We already know what the problem is. Millions of people are breaking our laws and it is costing American taxpayers nearly $300 billion a year. We also know what it will take to fix the problem.
We need border security — some combination of secure fencing, technology and manpower to prevent people from easily entering the country. It’s expensive, but not nearly as expensive as the growing and recurring costs of providing benefits and services to illegal aliens and their dependents.
We also need to give people convincing reasons not to come and remain in the United States illegally, whether they sneak across the border or overstay their visas.
Republicans, and until fairly recently Democrats as well, have argued that we need to prevent illegal aliens from working in the United States by requiring all employers to use the E-Verify system — a program that would not only discourage illegal immigration but would cut down on the scourge of identity theft that can ruin the lives of unsuspecting victims.
Republicans also promised to crack down on sanctuary policies that shield illegal aliens, including many criminal aliens, from federal law enforcement. Such policies were outlawed more than two decades ago, with bipartisan support, but there are no real penalties for jurisdictions that flout the law.
These are just a few of the obvious steps that Congress could take to assure the American public that we will not fall into the same trap of legalizing one group of immigrants only to have them followed by an even larger wave of new illegal immigration. Instead, what will likely come out of the House is an amnesty even larger than the one enacted in 1986 (with the assurance that it would never be repeated) that will either die in the Senate or be vetoed by President Trump.
What will be lost in this pointless exercise, however, is a real opportunity to deliver meaningful immigration reform that has the support of a broad cross section of the electorate. While there is some public empathy for the situation of people who were brought to the country illegally as children, there is a demand for concrete measures to dramatically curtail illegal immigration and a dearth of patience for dithering from Washington.
If a small group of Republicans want to make themselves look like the Keystone Kops in the run-up to the midterm elections, that’s their business. If they want to sell out the interests of workers and taxpayers and buy us off with another study, that’s the American people’s business, and they can expect that they will be soundly rebuffed by the voters.
Written by Ira Mehlman and published at The Hill ~ June 7, 2018
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