Congressional GOP Scramble to Find Votes for Pelosi’s Immigration Bill
Last week, something unprecedented happened in Congress. The Speaker of the Republican-controlled House, John Boehner, authorized one of his California representatives, Jeff Denham, to measure support for the Democrats’ immigration bill, H.R. 15. Boehner allowed Denham to circulate a letter among his fellow Republicans to gauge their interest in co-sponsorship of a Nancy Pelosi-led bill. Denham was the first House Republican to co-sign. Including Denham and two other Republicans, H.R. 15 currently has 190 votes of the 218 needed to pass.
Multiple ironies abound. First H.R. 15 is, according to Minority Leader Pelosi, nearly identical to the Senate bill, S. 744, which Boehner has repeatedly insisted that he would not bring forward. As Pelosi put it, H.R. 15 “contains the best of the Senate bill.” By “best” Pelosi means that anywhere from 11 million to 20 million illegal immigrants would become legal residents and receive automatic work authorization. Pelosi further interprets “best” as being without the cosmetic enforcement provisions the Senate added at the last minute but that would probably never be enacted.
Second, most Republican legislators have little confidence in Pelosi’s trustworthiness. With the 10,000-plus page Obamacare fiasco sending uninsured Americans into crisis mode, the last thing Congress needs is another behemoth bill that no one has read. Compared to Obamacare, H.R. 15 is a quick read at 1,137 pages but is still loaded with pitfalls that would create a bureaucratic nightmare.
Third, Denham represents a California district that includes Modesto and other high unemployment San Joaquin Valley cities. Modesto’s unemployment is about 12 percent or 30,000 residents that include Hispanics, blacks, returning veterans and disabled Americans. Converting illegal immigrants to legal status would make Modesto’s unemployed jobs searches tougher and also jeopardize the employed that would be at risk of wage undercutting. Expanding the labor pool hurts both the unemployed and the employed.
As the congressional debate rages on, the White House continues to subvert immigration law. Last Friday, the administration announced that family members of active-duty troops and veterans will be exempt from deportation. Bowing to pressure from pro-immigration activists who falsely insist that under Obama the numbers of illegal immigrants deported have reached an all-time high, another category of aliens will be protected. This latest unconstitutional executive action comes despite a Center for Immigration Studies report that showed ICE interior enforcement deportations declined 19 percent from 2011 to 2012 and is on pace to drop an additional 22 percent in 2013.
Not deporting certain aliens is part of the administration’s ongoing pattern. In August, the White House ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to protect illegal alien parents with minor children. Last year the president told agents to stop deporting young aliens who would have qualified for the DREAM Act which would have granted citizenship to illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and who were pursuing an education or promised to join the military. Although Congress repeatedly defeated the DREAM Act, Obama cited prosecutorial discretion to grant them legal standing. Prosecutorial discretion as it relates to immigration is a policy that began in 2011 and has expanded steadily since.
The outcome for immigration reform in 2013 remains cloudy. If Boehner evokes the Hastert Rule that no bill will be sent to the floor without the majority of Republicans supporting it, then it doesn’t matter how many signatures Denham collects. Assume though that Congress doesn’t take immigration up in what’s left of this year, the White House might continue its practice of doing amnesty in bits and pieces. Although President Obama says only Congress can enact full-fledged reform, his deeds contradict his words.