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Poison pill amendments to the Senate bill would endanger a bipartisan measure.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
The Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, built on a fragile framework of bipartisan compromises, now has to survive debate by the full chamber and come out in recognizable form.
That will take an equally delicate balancing act for Republicans. In the closely divided Senate, Tuesday’s 84-15 vote to take up the bill for consideration was a heartening sign that the GOP finally is ready to act on sorely needed reform of a broken immigration system.
Yet the tally was misleading as a gauge of support among Republicans, many of whom said their “yes” votes would turn to “no” unless the bill (S. 744) is amended to tighten border security provisions. They need to resist conservative pressure, though, to swallow a poison pill.
For example, Texas Republican John Cornyn’s 134-page “RESULTS” amendment.
It would allow undocumented immigrants to gain permanent legal status and start on a path to citizenship only after the federal government is monitoring the entire U.S.-Mexican border and can show it is catching 90 percent of people trying to gain illegal entry — as certified by the governors of Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona.
Or Louisiana Sen. David Vitter’s amendment to require that a biometric entry-exit system first be fully implemented at every land, sea and air port of entry — though the Department of Homeland Security doubts it can be done with existing technology.
In other words, it will happen when pigs fly.
Democrats will not go along with such schemes, and the nation’s chance for meaningful reform will be lost.
The GOP needs to wrest from Democrats some concession for further tightening border security, though. Otherwise, even Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida — a member of the Gang of Eight that wrote the legislation — has said his support is doubtful.
Rubio and Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn reportedly are considering offering an amendment that would give the job of drafting a border security plan to Congress instead of the Department of Homeland Security, which would enforce it. That would leave responsibility for the results where it matters: on government, which has to design, fund and implement the effort, rather than on illegal immigrants in this country, who can have no control over its success or failure.
There must be some further mechanism to assure the country it isn’t resolving their status humanely, while leaving the door open to future waves of illegal immigrants.
That fear is the source of the greatest resistance to the Senate bill, in Congress and the country. Senate passage will be tough enough — but nothing compared to getting a comprehensive reform bill through the Republicancontrolled House. Where the Judiciary Committee chairman, Virginia 6th District Rep. Bob Goodlatte, sees no need for one at all, and is working diligently on bits and pieces.
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