Thursday, May 24, 2007

Not the Right Reform of US Immigration Policy, But What Do I Know?

I haven't read the Senate immigration reform bill yet, and I doubt I ever will. I have heard, and read various accounts about it's content, however, and there is some historical context that should be considered. U.S. immigration policy changed in the 1960's, with the Hart-Celler Act of 1965. It is interesting to note that this "reform" was enacted one year after the Bracero Program ended, in 1964. That program used Mexicans to replace Americans in the agriculture business.

John H. Fund notes that the "Bracero guest-worker program reduced arrests of illegal aliens at the border from over a million in 1954 to only 45,000 by 1959. The number of arrests remained under 100,000 a year until 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson ended the program under pressure from labor unions."

Hart-Celler liberalized "family reunification" visa rules, which allowed what's known as "chain immigration," or newly naturalized citizens using their status to bring as many relatives as possible under the law. Sen. Ted Kennedy was a big backer of this bill, which was purported to have "no impact" on the demographics of the nation by it's proponents. They were wrong.

Twenty years or so later, Pres. Reagan signed the Simpson-Mazzoli immigration act. He called it "amnesty," and I remember accepting it, as I was still somewhat liberal at the time. What was 3 million more people to assimilate into our culture? Unfortunately, the liberal "family reunification" visa rules, among many other loopholes, weren't closed in that legislation, and the enforcement provisions were rarely enforced. The result is our current 12-20 million illegalI immigrants, some 20 years later. It appears that officials and lawmakers in several levels and branches of government, and of both parties, have been complicit in violations of Simpson-Mazzoli, which is the current immigration law.

This all sets the stage for our current immigration debate. It's 20 years since this has been considered worth serious debate by the US Congress. Michael Barone thinks that it is a step in the right direction: "Uncles, aunts, grandmothers and cousins would no longer get as much preference as they've had - people with high skills would get more." He continues: "The Kennedy-Kyl immigration compromise, now under attack from many conservatives and some liberals, attempts to steer the immigration ship in the direction of regularization, enforcement that actually works and toward skill-based rather than family-based immigration. At least if they get the details right." That last qualifier is what I focus on.

This legislation is filled with "gobbledy-gook," which is a nonscientific term for misleading and contradictory language within the bill. I know this without reading the bill, thanks to John Podhoretz, from the NY Post:" Here's a doozy, uncovered by talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt. While the bill starts off with language that suggests no goodies will flow to illegals until the border is strengthened by fencing and more patrol agents, other language - 260 pages later - seems to remove the trigger from the trigger mechanism."

No wonder the Senate sponsors wanted to ram this through outside of the committee process, and without open floor debate. It's a typical "back room" deal; the kind the public wouldn't stand for, if the details were debated in a transparent manner (say, on CSPAN). Perhaps it has become more of a negotiating position than an actual proposal, now that it will be debated on the Senate floor. It also has to be reconciled with whatever Speaker Pelosi cooks up in the House, so I find all of the hype about this to be premature speculation.

Here's an interesting anecdote from Jack Kelly:

Lou Barletta was elected Tuesday to a third term as mayor of Hazleton, a
city of about 31,000 in northeastern Pennsylvania. Such an election normally
would attract little national attention. But members of the U.S. Senate would be
well advised to pay close attention to it.

A Republican, Mr. Barletta won his own primary, 1,343 votes to 80, in what
the local newspaper, the Standard-Speaker, said "appears to be the biggest
landslide in city history."

Mr. Barletta also won the Democratic primary, as a write-in candidate. He
received 1,211 votes to 699 for the Democrat on the ballot, his predecessor as

What accounts for Mayor Barletta's amazing popularity in a city where
registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-1?

Last August Hazleton passed ordinances which impose a $1,000 a day fine on
any landlord in the city who rents to an illegal immigrant, and revokes for five
years the business license of any employer who hires one. Prospective renters
would be required to appear at city hall with proof of citizenship, or of a
legal right to be in America.

Another ordinance declares English to be Hazleton's official language. City
employees are forbidden to translate documents into other languages without
official authorization.

Mayor Barletta says the ordinances are necessary because illegal immigrants
have been driving up the crime rate and swamping the schools and the local
hospital. I think they are too severe. But the people of Hazleton evidently

So do alot of others, around the country. They won't stand for the Senate's feeble attempt at so-called "comprehensive" immigration reform. Passions run high on this issue, and frankly, I'm surprised that some Senators thought they could pull this old trick. The bill seems to have some good parts, but who can be sure? Looking at the history of unintended results from the last few "immigration reform" acts, the American people deserve a clear explanation, and open legislative debate of the proposal. While I'm still hopeful that we will get that, this disgraceful politcal display by both parties makes me think about how to "throw the bums out!" -For the hundredth time.