Still, we finally may be getting the real Congressional confrontation everybody who wants real immigration reform has been working for.
As Jeffrey H. Birnbaum's December 14 Washington Post article [Immigration Pushes Apart GOP, Chamber] put it:
"The House Republican leadership and the nation's business lobby, usually close allies, are battling each other over the issue of immigration. In a rare schism, employer groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are pressing to kill a Republican-sponsored measure that would require businesses to verify that all of their workers are in the United States legally and would increase penalties for hiring illegal employees."
Long ago the technology was available to check social security numbers and verify if someone was here legally. But of course, the threat that it might actually be applied has these powerful business forces screaming.
"The business groups contend that the verification system, which has only been tried in experimental form, is too mistake-prone to give employers accurate results. They worry that, as a result, companies might be subjected to steep and misapplied penalties because of faulty computer readouts, and that individuals might have their working status jeopardized and their private backgrounds scrutinized needlessly."
Oh, c'mon! It just isn't that tough to find out if someone has proper ID or not.
The GOP leadership's new strategy is to have the House only deal with the more politically-palatable issue of increasing border security and clamping down on employers (the real question will of course be "how hard"). Then Republican leaders will get the Senate to pass some form of a guest worker plan. [GOP forms strategy to OK guest workers, by Anne C. Mulkern]
After that vote, senators and House members will merge the House border bill with the Senate amnesty bill behind closed doors. The House will then vote on some kind of guest worker bill. Oops.
Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO) says, "They are doing it this way because they know in the House they will run into a buzz saw and maybe my name's on it." And he has 90 or so members with him for reform.
Of course, my own party, at least for the moment, the open border party of America otherwise known as the Democratic Party, may make common cause with the lobbyists and help Bush loyalists put the amnesty through.
If the employer sanctions were really tough, perhaps some minor guest worker provision would be a worthy compromise. But this is really unlikely.
One ray of hope this time around–we have had enough prior amnesties in the past 30 years to allow a huge influx of immigrants, perhaps as many as 13 million of them illegally here now–might be the relative security of Congressional office holders. The fact that 98 percent of our House of Representatives were reelected in the last cycle suggests that perhaps many of them could show courage at this critical juncture.
Watch closely, folks, the fun has just begun. Everyone now pays lip service to the ideas of stopping illegal immigration. But converting illegal aliens into guest workers is the name of the Bush game. And he may well get away with it unless the threat of real future electoral pain can be made clear.
Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.