Back in February, we expressed cautious support for bipartisan efforts to strike a compromise on the hot-button issue of immigration.
With each passing day, however, the proposal put forward by a U.S. Senate working group looks more like another immigration bait-and-switch.
Like most Americans, we aren’t wild about granting citizenship to the estimated 12 million foreigners in the U.S. illegally. But amnesty is a price we are willing to pay if it comes with tangible improvements in border security, real employer verification, and strict interior enforcement – all of which remain laughably non-existent today.
When the so-called “Gang of Eight” rolled out their plan, that’s exactly what they promised: a compromise approach built on concessions from both sides of the immigration divide. Conservatives would have to accept some form of legal status for illegal immigrants, and liberals would have to accept meaningful security measures.
A fair trade-off? We think so. The problem is, that trade-off has yet to materialize.
Backers of the Senate bill initially assured skeptics that border security would come first, then the amnesty. And that was enough for many – including us – to believe that an end to the illegal immigration crisis might finally be in sight. But those promises are already giving way to suggestions from the bill’s proponents that amnesty must come first.
Not to worry, we are told, security will come later. But that’s the same promise that Washington politicians of both parties have made – and broken – time and time again. It also helps explain why so few Americans believe that our leaders have any intention of following through on those commitments.
And we suspect that the Senate’s first few votes on the proposal will only reinforce that skepticism.
On Tuesday, the Senate rejected amendments that sought to put in place two of the most basic components necessary if we are going to get serious about border security — the completion of the border fence, and the implementation of a system to track when foreigners enter and leave the United States (fully half of all illegal immigrants are estimated to be people who entered the U.S. legally and then overstayed their visa).
The rejection of the fence amendment, offered by Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), is particularly discouraging. Not because the completion of the 700-mile fence would somehow magically solve the illegal immigration problem — but because it was mandated by Congress way back in 2006, and because just 36 miles of that fence has been completed to date.
You read that correctly. It has taken the U.S. government longer to build 36 miles of a 700-mile fence than it took to defeat Hitler and Tojo.
In many ways, the border fence – or more appropriately the lack of the border fence – is a metaphor for America’s illegal immigration crisis: Voters, fed up with runaway illegal immigration, demand that politicians pass stricter laws. Politicians respond by passing those laws, and then proceed to completely ignore the laws they just passed.
We aren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet, and we continue to hope that a meaningful compromise can be found to both seal our embarrassingly porous borders, and bring millions of hardworking people out of the shadows. Unfortunately, however, the Senate bill in its current form is nowhere close to meeting that minimal standard.