…set by the Democrats. I’m not talking about the Senate amnesty bill. I’m talking about the House bill that makes undocumented status a Federal felony.
There was a column Monday or Tuesday that discussed the tactics behind passage of the House bill by James Sensenbrenner. I’m trying to go back through the blogs I read over the past couple of days to find it, and when I do, I’ll post the link. (I have a vague recollection that it was a New York Post column.) Update: Still can’t find the column I read, but here’s another by Debra Saunders that says pretty much the same thing.
Apparently, according to the column, the two following facts are true:
a) the Republicans put the make-undocumented-status-a-Federal felony clause in as a bargaining chip and were perfectly willing to toss it aside in favor of reaffirming the status quo, wherein undocumented status is a Federal misdemeanor;
b) the Democrats saw their chance to hoist the Stupid Party by its own petard and prevented the Republicans from removing the clause. The final vote to remove the clause in favor of misdemeanor language failed because almost all the Democrats voted to keep the felony language in. TRAP!
Most folks see the word “illegal” and think “criminal.” The two are not the same; for example, in the business world there are plenty of illegal acts on the books that provide for only civil penalties (fines, injunctions) or, at worst, misdemeanor criminal penalties, which are almost never enforced but instead used as a stick to get the offender to agree to pay the fines in a settlement. But that’s been entirely lost in this debate, and apparently the Democrats had a nice strategy to chum up opposition based on the felony language.
Also, the Republicans’ actions on this bill were pretty good evidence that most Republicans on the Hill have no intention (even House Republicans) of felonizing illegal status. Whoopsie! Should have communicated that to the base, first!
It will be very interesting — with Lou Dobbs (and, I have no doubt, Michael Savage, even though I don’t listen to him) performing the same incite-ful roles they did in the Dubai Ports World affair — to see how the Stupid Party handles this. Some are saying this issue is shaping up to be a net positive for Republicans — with the Karl Rove strategery for the Fall election being to localize all the House races, the President can theoretically remain above the fray taking the more moderate position on illegal immigration, while the House candidates can froth at the mouth all they want (or not, depending on the voting composition of their district.) I’m not so sure.
A couple of points that I haven’t really seen raised yet about all this:
1) Even if most of the people demonstrating in the streets the other day were illegals (and thus not voters, and thus wielding no political power), they’re almost all going to be related to at least one legal immigrant US citizen who does vote. As an example, my own illegal-immigrant-from-Mexico father-in-law sired twelve children, ten of whom were born in the US. They are all citizens and they all vote. Some vote Republican (yes, despite Pete Wilson, some of them have come around). If the House’s felony bill passes, they will never vote Republican again. They can remember a time when Mom and Dad weren’t yet legal. They’d support a fence, they’d support stricter enforcement, but making felons out of Mom and Dad — or others like them – is over the line. Some are saying that the Republicans shouldn’t feel any voting pressure from the masses in the streets because they don’t vote. Perhaps not, but they represent votes that would be cast by their legal-immigrant-citizen relatives. Regardless of the merits of the bill, rest assured the party leaders are counting votes on this issue.
2) Nobody’s looking at how horribly broken the legal immigration procedure is. I work with Indian immigrants who have been in the pipeline for twelve years trying to get citizenship. Some know people who have been fighting the system for twenty. Imposing an arbitrary “five-years-and-you-have-to-go-back-unless-your-paperwork’s-done” requirement is simply laughable, and frankly unfair.
3) If the Federal-felony bill were to pass, what do you think would be the result? The Feds don’t even have enough manpower to enforce the Federal ban on marijuana, and California’s just truckin’ along setting up medical marijuana clinics right in the open all over the state. California, at least, will simply thumb its nose at the Feds. It will not be pretty.
Politically, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that the Stupid Party leaders will allow the felony bill to pass. For my money, the question’s going to be whether or not they handle this overall issue well enough to avoid alienating their base, which would mean disaster on Election Day 2006. The Dems are sitting in the catbird’s seat on this one, and that makes me sick.