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Immigration Reform: One Tiny Step at a Time

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The next challenge facing the conservatives will be the comprehensive immigration bill so beloved of Democrats and the Ruling Class. The ardor to pursue this has diminished since the horror of Obamacare has become evident but the desire is still there:

As attention returns to immigration legislation, one of its Senate advocates says it will take some public pressure to advance it through the House.

“I’m hopeful that the business community in particular will be more active, and the evangelical community, and the manufacturers and the farm growers,” Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who was among a bipartisan group of senators who pushed a comprehensive plan through the Senate this year, told reporters. “A coalition was assembled behind this legislation the likes of which has never been assembled.”

McCain said the outside groups have failed to push hard enough on the legislation.

“They’ve got to be more active to put pressure on these members of Congress to pass something,” he said after an event at the City Club of Chicago. “Just pass something, then we’ll go to conference with it.”

Although 2014 is an election year, McCain said it’s possible that some lawmakers could be more supportive of the legislation, if they clear primary challenges in the spring and early summer.

“Just pass something.”

Rarely have more stupid words been spoken, except by John McCain at any given press availability. What McCain is advocating is that Senators and Representatives abrogate their responsibility to their constituents and to the nation and turn the nation’s immigration policy over to whatever “Gang of [your number here]” McCain and Lindsay Graham belong to this week.

Conservatives should take a pass on McCain’s advice and on voting on this bill.

While I’d be the last one to defend the current immigration system, I think we’ve seen enough of “comprehensive” reforms to know that they are dysfunctional and a vehicle for government overreach and political corruption.  If you are the average American who doesn’t employ an illegal alien as a nanny and you don’t need illegal aliens to work in your tomato fields or restaurants you probably care just as much about ensuring that immigration is efficiently regulated as you are about legitimizing the scoff laws who are currently living and working in the United States illegally.

To put it mildly, most of us feel burned.

Time and again we’ve seen immigration laws changed with promises of tighter enforcement. The amnesties always materialize, the tighter restrictions don’t.  We got a bill putting a fence on the border in 2006. It still isn’t finished. Now we can argue the efficacy of the wall on its merits for a while but what is really not up for argument is that the failure of Congress to ensure the wall was finished has largely poisoned the well in regards to immigration.

The particularly egregious disrespect the Obama administration has shown for the rule of law also calls into question whether having the administration certify that certain actions have been completed are sufficiently meaningful to be used.

The most troubling aspect of these large scale bills is that they affect a wide variety of administrative and legislative systems with no clear understanding by the authors of their impact. More importantly, these wide ranging bills often depend upon people behaving in a non-intuitive and non-self-interested manner in order to work. For instance, the Obamacare bill requires a large number of young, healthy people to buy health insurance (that they don’t need) in order to make the risk pools work. The same law allows the same target demographic to remain on their parents’ insurance until they are 26. If employers are forced to purchase health insurance for employees working over 30 hours a week, one can hardly be shocked and dismayed when employers cut work hours to avoid the expense.

Rather than a comprehensive law now under consideration, conservatives should insist that bill be broken up into constituent parts.

The first action taken must be those that strengthen the enforcement of existing laws. At a minimum:

  • Part of this process must be an investigation by a House committee that reviews the level of effort the administration has put into enforcing the laws and deporting illegal immigrants.
  • The Congress should not accept any certification by the administration as sufficient grounds for deeming a milestone has been accomplished. All certification must be done by Congressional investigation and certification by both Houses.
  • The border fence must be completed in accordance with the 2006 law.
  • Congress must pass a law and that law must be signed by the president that overturns Arizona v. United States acknowledges states have the right to enforce federal immigration laws and requires the federal government to fully cooperate with such state effort.

Once we have achieved some level of confidence that the president has decided to enforce the laws on the books we can move forward with changes to the immigration system. The priority there should be on attracting the best and brightest in the world to the United States, it should not be to legitimize those who have deliberately broken the law.

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