The headlines and the talking heads all tell us President Bush desperately wants a comprehensive immigration reform plan passed this year to provide at least one positive legacy for him. The Senate is even putting in long hours discussing the possibilities.
But sorry, W, it probably won’t happen, at least not this year.
That’s because the main proposal Bush and his allies in Congress are now pushing amounts to fundamental selfishness, disregard for human rights, ignoring of lawbreaking and payoffs for campaign donors, all at once.
It’s a package so distasteful to so many on all sides of this issue that regardless of what any Bush employees may now say, it’s not likely to get by the House, even if the Senate should give its okay.
Here’s what Bush and Republican senators like John Cornyn of Texas and John Kyl of Arizona now want to do:
– End the longstanding policy where family reunification takes precedence over other factors in deciding who gets to enter this country legally.
– Make the employment needs of businesses the top priority instead.
– Nothing at all until the Border Patrol gets a 50 percent boost in personnel, and 570 miles of fencing and other barriers are constructed along the Mexican border.
As part of this plan, some currently illegal immigrants would be given legal status – so long as an employer wants them badly enough to vouch for them.
But those who want to become U.S. citizens would first have to leave the country and then reenter using secured documents. Meanwhile, a guest worker program would be created, but one that neither allows workers’ families to accompany them nor lets them bring in their families later.
In short, it’s an inhumane plan that helps no one but the agriculture, textile and other industries that have been major contributors to both of Bush’s presidential campaigns.
And it has so many holes in it that it’s hard to see how it could win a majority in either the House or Senate.
For one thing, Democrats wanting to keep the Latino vote solidly in their column will not vote in large numbers for a plan that makes unifying families a bottom priority. That would be flat-out inhumane and they would be called down for it instantly by Hispanic leaders.
For another, Republicans will not vote in large numbers for a plan that allows legalization of immigrants who entered this country illegally, no matter how hard they’ve worked since arriving. Too many Republicans ran on platforms flatly opposing anything like this. They know they’ll face strong primary election opposition next year if they flip-flop. The same for many moderate Democratic congressmen who ran on much the same kind of platform.
And yet, business desperately needs more workers, according to Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. “Businesses are already beginning to feel the pinch,” he said, citing figures showing a combination of raids on businesses employing illegals and increased border enforcement has reduced the corps of available cheap laborers. Hundreds of California farms experienced labor shortages last summer, when a shortage of migrant workers left some crops rotting on trees and vines.
Tough, say foes of illegal immigration. The strongly anti-illegal immigrant Center for Immigration Studies has published studies purporting to show that increasing wages for unskilled workers would attract American citizens to many jobs now taken by illegals.
Meanwhile, Democrats led by Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts say they will never agree to reduce the emphasis on family reunification and on giving future “guest workers” some kind of path to citizenship.
“You don’t compromise on the morality of these issues and we’re not going to,” Kennedy said.
On the other extreme, Republican Rep. and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo of Colorado vows never to allow legalization of today’s crop of undocumented immigrants, and not to allow guest workers any way to become citizens.
Both sides vow never to compromise, as Bush is trying to get them to do.
Maybe he needs to conduct a “surge” campaign for his compromise proposal. But even if he does, chances are it will be no more successful than the other surge campaign he’s run for the last five months in Iraq.