The end of the year means a turnover of House control from the Democrats to the Republicans and, with it, Congress' approach to immigration.
In a matter of weeks, the failed efforts in Congress to grant amnesty to young,and not so young, illegal immigrants will come to an end and the debate will begin on whether children born to parents who are in the country illegally should continue to enjoy automatic U.S. citizenship. This debate is also likely to encompass children born to tourists and others who are only in the U.S. temporarily as guests or visitors.
This effort should resonate with the GOP faithful who helped swing the House in Republicans' favor as well as others who see Jus Soli as an anachronism while the U.S. is under duress from millions of illegal aliens. In its endeavor to grab a large enough share of the growing Latino vote to win the White House and the Senate majority in 2012, the GOP will need to vastly improve and increase its outreach to Latinos. It needs to sharpen its message to show that these immigration reforms are in the long term interests of all citizens and legal residents and consistent with the practices in many other developed countries.
Legislation to test interpretations of the 14th Amendment as granting citizenship to children of illegal immigrants, tourists and other transients will emerge early next session. That is likely to be followed by attempts to require all employers, public and private, to use E-Verify, a web-based system, to check the work status of both current employees and potential new hires to determine if they are in the U.S. legally.
There could be proposed curbs on federal spending in santuary cities that don't do enough to identify people who are in the country illegally and facilitate their removal. Another measure would reduce the number of legal immigrants to more like 200,000 per year focused on those mostly likely to help the U.S. remain competitive in the world economy. IntransigentDemocrats ended the year still failing to grasp the essentials of the wishes of the American people with regard to immigration reform. Under their leadership the deeply-flawed DREAM Act and other amnesty measures have contined to fall short of the number of votes necessary for passage in either the House or the Senate or both. The Dream Act, which would have given hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants a chance at legal status, failed to include penalties for the submittal of fraudulent applications and adequate protections against wholesale abuse.
House Republicans will try to fill the immigration reform vacuum left by Democrats with legislation designed to send illegal immigrants packing and deter others from trying to come to the U.S. This is what the Congress should have been doing for a long time instead of attempting to reward illegal aliens for violating U.S. borders and sovereignty.
Democrats, who will still control the Senate, will be playing defense against the long overdue immigration enforcement measures, mindful of their need to keep on good footing with Hispanic voters. But a slimmer majority and an eye on 2012 may prevent Senate Democrats from bringing to the floor any sweeping immigration bill, or even a limited one that hints at providing legal status to people in the country illegally.
President Barack Obama could be a wild card.
He'll have at his disposal his veto power should a bill denying citizenship to children of illegal immigrants make it to his desk. But Obama also has made cracking down on employers a key part of his administration's immigration enforcement tactics. He has, nevertheless, demonstrated a certain obtuseness about the role of E-Verify in facilitating that crackdown.
Hispanic voters and their allies will look for Obama to broker a deal on immigration as he did on tax cuts and health care. After the Dream Act failed in the Senate this month, Obama said his administration would not give up on the measure. "At a minimum we should be able to get Dream done. So I'm going to go back at it," he said. The GOP is in a position to negotiate more stringent requirements for potential DREAM applicants so that the bill will no longer be seen as a backdoor approach to another major amnesty. The GOP should insist on a minimum of four years of military service for all applicants. All of the loopholes must be closed, the time frame for applications limited to six months from the date of passage, and severe penalties imposed for fraudulent applications detected through regular audits.
The president has taken heavy hits in Spanish-language and ethnic media for failing to keep his promise to address immigration promptly and taking it off the agenda last summer. His administration's continued deportations of immigrants — a record 393,000 in the 2010 fiscal year — have also made tenuous his relationship with Hispanic voters.
John Morton, who oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a recent conference call that there are no plans to change the agency's enforcement tactics, which are focused on immigrants who commit crimes but also have led to detaining and deporting many immigrants who have not committed crimes. A change in that policy to broaden its scope could be part of any deal brokered by Obama with the GOP. The borders will never be secure in the absence of vigorous and continuous internal enforcement designed to identify, apprehend, detain and quickly deport involuntarily all illegals.
The agency also will continue to expand Secure Communities, the program that allows immigration officials to check fingerprints of all people booked into jail to see if they are in the country illegally. Both illegal immigrants and residents can end up being deported under the program, which the Homeland Security Department hopes to expand nationwide by 2013. Of course, some other measures are needed beyond mere deportation. Repeat border violators must do hard time for at least two years for the first repeat violation and five years for the next.
Many of those attending a recent gathering of conservative Hispanics in Washington warned that another round of tough laws surrounded by ugly anti-immigrant discussions could doom the GOP's 2012 chances. But there is no need for these discussions to be perceived as anti-immigrant. They must be characterized as pro-America measures designed to maintain the quality of life and standard of living of citizens and permanent residents. The emphasis needs to be on our finite natural resources like water, arable land, and minerals so that all can see the need for population stabilization through reduced legal immgration and secure borders. The alternative must be shown as a declining standard of living and quality of life as more people compete for those finite natural resources as well as jobs. The more there are of us, the less there will be for each of us of those finite natural resources. Surely, that can be an argument that will resonate with Hispanic citizens.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a possible 2012 presidential candidate, cited Meg Whitman's failed gubernatorial bid in California despite her high spending. When 22 percent of the electorate is Latino, candidates can't win without a vigorous presence in the Hispanic community and a "message that is understandable and involves respect," Gingrich said. Even so, Gingrich was unwilling to call on his fellow Republican senators to drop their opposition to the DREAM Act, saying the legislation should not have been considered without giving lawmakers a chance to amend it. And he is certainly right about that. The deeply-flawed DREAM Act needs major changes before it is brought to a vote. A modified bill can be written that will be, at least minimally, acceptable to the both the GOP and Democrats.
The next Congress will be populated with many newcomers elected on a platform of tougher immigration enforcement. They'll have ready ears in Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, who will chair the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who is expected to chair the committee's immigration subcommittee.
That's a recipe for more measures aimed at immigration enforcement, including requiring businesses to use E-Verify rather than just eyeballing paper documents to check workers' citizenship and legal residency status. E-Verify is a quick and efficient way of determining the work status of employees. Any objections to this system have nothing to do with its effectiveness; instead it has to do with the desire of employers to continue to hire illegal aliens at substandard wages.
"I've already told the business community it's going to happen," said Beto Cardenas, executive counsel to Americans for Immigration Reform, a coalition of business leaders who support overhauling immigration laws. Changes to immigration law contained in appropriations and authorization bills, where immigration enforcement hawks are likely to tuck some measures, would also be tough to reject.
But more controversial measures such as attempts to deny citizenship to children of people who are in the U.S. illegally could be tempered by GOP leaders aware of the need to curry more favor with Hispanic voters. Nevertheless, the applicability of the 14th Amendment to the children of illegal aliens, tourists, temporary migrant farm workers, and others who are in the U.S. temporarily is due to be tested and everyone should support that effort to once and for all settle this issue.
Substantially adapted and paraphrased from an article by SUZANNE GAMBOA, Associated Press – Mon Dec 27, 3:23 am ET
Working for logical immigation reform based on a stable population, a recognition of the finite nature of our natural resources and the adverse impact of continued growth on our quality of life, standard of living, national interest, character, language, sovereignty and the rule of law. Pushing back and countering the disloyal elements in American society and the anti-American rhetoric of the leftwing illegal alien lobbies. In a debate, when your opponents turn to name calling, it's a good sign you've already won.