They're ba-a-a-a-ck!. The Open-Borders Republicans, led by Senator Lindsey Graham, are being courted by the usual Democrat suspects (Chuck Schumer in particular) for a retry at amnesty for illegal aliens. And Senator McCain appears about to revert to his pro-amnesty self now that he's been reelected.
The long-lasting jobs depression (which may well last for years into the future) does not concern globalista Senators who plan to plop additional millions of excess workers into the labor pool. As it happens, I just caught the tail end of a live Brookings panel discussing how to increaseÂ high-tech immigration. Why would any young American major in computer science or similar fields when the system is so skewed in favor of foreign workers? The message is sent every day that citizens have very few friends in the capitol city.
Realistically, though, how likely is any foreign-lawbreaker-rewarding amnesty to get through the current House of Representatives? Slim to none. A certain amount of politics is theater to convince interest groups that pols are busy with their issue. One understands that tendency with Democrats, who Hispander at every opportunity. However, Lindsey Graham seems to be running for the position of King of All the RINOs - curious.
Senators look for immigration deal, Politico, February 7, 2011
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have rekindled their alliance on immigration reform, taking some early steps to test the political will for addressing the contentious issue this year.
Their call list hasn't focused so much on House and Senate members who've been reliable pro-immigration votes in the past. Instead, they're looking to a strange-bedfellows mix of conservative and liberal constituencies that can provide a "safety net" of support, as Graham put it, once the issue heats up.
"It's in the infant stage," Graham told POLITICO. "I don't know what the political appetite is to do something."
For all the groups getting a call from the pair, it is the presence of Graham himself who elevates the odds - however bleak - that the Senate could move on a comprehensive, bipartisan overhaul bill. Graham abruptly departed the talks last spring and took with him any hope of getting a bill in the past Congress.
Now, conservative evangelicals, the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union, business organizations and immigrant advocacy groups say they have gotten word from Schumer's office that a renewed effort is under way. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce confirmed that it is back in the mix, after a hasty exit last year when Schumer proposed a legislative framework with a temporary worker program that favored labor unions.
And Schumer and his staff have quietly begun reaching out to some unlikely players in the Senate, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who has professed a newfound freedom since winning reelection last year without the Republican Party's help.
"What we're doing is beginning these preliminary talks, particularly with outside groups, to try and regain the consensus that was pretty nicely formed last year," Schumer said in a phone interview. "And who knows, we might surprise everyone and get something done. We realize it is a tough thing to do, but it is very important, and it's worth a shot. We've been getting interesting, positive responses - from places you wouldn't expect it."
The task won't be easy. For starters, Republicans control the House, and they can't say it often enough: A pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants won't fly on their watch.
The most popular immigration proposal in recent years, the DREAM Act, fell five votes short of passage in the Senate last year, in part because of Democratic defections. Now picture how a bill with a sweeping legalization program would fare in a chamber where Democrats control fewer seats and the Republican majority is more conservative.
Still, advocates of comprehensive reform see some reason for optimism.
Democrats believe the November elections put a bit of a scare into Republicans, who failed to capture the Senate in part because of strong Latino turnout in California, Nevada, Colorado and Washington. If the GOP hopes to win the White House in 2012, it will need to reverse that trend.
President Barack Obama made a more forceful pitch for action in this year's State of the Union address than he did in last year's, when he devoted a single, tepid line to it.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) ranked immigration reform as his third priority for the new Congress, after cutting government spending and taxes.
House Republican leaders blocked Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a foe of illegal immigration with a penchant for harsh rhetoric, from taking over the immigration subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee - signaling that they are sensitive to the political pitfalls of alienating Latinos. Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has also shied away, at least for now, from pursuing the most divisive proposals, such as revoking birthright citizenship.
And in one closely watched comment, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) let it slip recently that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) "seems to think that there's a shot at this." It led to a round of speculation that the McCain of the past, the senator who ushered a comprehensive bill through the chamber in 2006, might be ready to come back.
Graham's return gives the discussion a bipartisan sheen that it has lacked since last April, when he dropped out of the talks, angered by Reid's decision to move an immigration bill ahead of a climate change bill. Graham viewed the announcement as a sign of bad faith.
Still, the Schumer-Graham partnership is limited in its ability to build broader support within the chamber.
Schumer, in his enhanced leadership role in Congress, has taken on the job of attack dog, coordinating the daily assault on Republicans - a post that hasn't made him popular with the GOP.
And for the issue to gain serious traction among Republicans, more senators than Graham will need to step forward, GOP aides said. The involvement of heavyweights like McCain and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) may be the only way to lend broader credibility to the effort.
"Conservatives are hacked off with Schumer for so many reasons," said the Rev. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who supports comprehensive immigration reform. "Both carry baggage. There need to be some new faces that carry" the issue, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
Land works with Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which he said has heard from Schumer's office.
McCain said he won't rejoin the talks until Congress approves a 10-point border security plan, which he and Kyl introduced last year, and the governors of the states adjoining Mexico certify their borders as secure.
"The smart move for the country and the administration would be, take McCain-Kyl and make it law," Graham said. "Let everybody know we are putting resources in the border and we're going to fix it. And then move on to the other parts."
"It would be a real enhancement of border security that will make it easier for those who want comprehensive reform to talk about it," Graham added.
Schumer, however, wouldn't commit to that strategy.
"Anything Lindsey suggests, I will have an open ear to," Schumer said.
Murkowski confirmed to POLITICO that her staff has been contacted by Schumer aides to discuss the issue, but the discussions haven't involved her yet. And although she was a surprise vote in favor of the DREAM Act in December, she didn't appear anxious to begin talks on a comprehensive immigration overhaul.
"Right now, I'm just so focused on what's happening with the energy issues, I haven't been engaged in it," she said.
Schumer said his staff has been meeting with Graham's staff to "try to come up with something that he and I and many of the outside groups can agree on, and then we will try to sell it to our colleagues."
Naturally, supporters of a comprehensive overhaul are hopeful but realistic. Some were reluctant to even talk about the preliminary discussions, saying publicity about their delicate efforts could prove harmful.
Others are just growing impatient.
"I don't want to go through another session of Congress chasing the immigration tail," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. "We have to do things differently, whether it is Sen. Schumer or someone else putting a proposal on the table. I kind of get the feeling that everybody knows what will be in the bill. There are very few immigration rabbits that can be pulled out of the hat, so let's get the rabbit out there and move the bill."