July 28, 2006

Commentary:

House Road Show Ignores Signs of the Times

By Marshall Fitz
New America Media

WASHINGTON, DC--Sadly, the likelihood that Congress will act this year in a good faith effort to solve our immigration crisis appears bleak. Once again, politics will trump policy and real people will be left holding the bag.

Why the heightened doom and gloom when the prospects of getting a positive bill enacted this year have always been dicey? Because the House of Representatives is proceeding with a public relations stunt instead of following standard legislative procedure to reconcile differences between the House and Senate bills. What once seemed like an uphill battle, now seems nigh impossible.

The Senate bill (S. 2611), although imperfect, at least embraces an “enforcement-plus reform” approach. It strives for both security and workability: smart and fair border enforcement plus safe, orderly and legal paths to permanent status and eventual citizenship for deserving immigrants. In contrast, the House of Representatives bill (H.R. 4437) reflects an “enforcement-only” approach that provides neither security nor workability.

But instead of negotiating with the Senate and hammering out a compromise between these competing visions of reform, House Republican leaders are taking their short-sighted plan on the road. They have embarked on an unprecedented two-month series of hearings intended to whip up their conservative base and focus attacks on the Senate bill. Both the witness lineups and the hearing titles highlight that it is not a national debate that they want, but rather a pre-scripted affirmation of their plan.

The political calculus that led them down this path, however, is dubious. Last month’s Utah primary in the 3rd District and new polling from the Manhattan Institute should have given them pause. Both demonstrate that the American people are not misled by restrictionist posturing and sound bites and that they overwhelmingly embrace comprehensive immigration reform that will provide both security and workability and affirm our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

In Utah's 3rd District, U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon scored a solid 56-44 percent victory in the Republican primary, in a race focused mainly on immigration issues. Cannon's opponent called him "soft on illegal immigration" for embracing the Senate's comprehensive approach to immigration reform, and restrictionist groups poured tens of thousands of dollars into radio ads criticizing Cannon's stand on immigration.

On June 22, 2006, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research released a new poll on immigration reform, conducted among 800 Republican likely voters by the Tarrance Group, a Republican polling firm. This poll, like numerous others over the past year, found broad support for a comprehensive immigration reform plan that provides current undocumented immigrants with an opportunity for earned citizenship. Indeed, more than three quarters of individuals self-identified as strong Republicans support such a plan.

Despite these signs, the House leadership has elected to forego meaningful debate that could pave the way for a comprehensive solution to the problems plaguing our immigration system. For the millions of families and the thousands of businesses suffering under the current regime, this misguided strategy is a painful and costly one.

Marshall Fitz, director of advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association in Washington, DC.

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