Paternity Tests

Bush Administration, Congress, Immigration

First, if by chance any journalists drop by here, I have a complaint. I’ve been surfing around this morning looking for a news story that explains the main provisions of the immigration bill, in its current form, and the various amendments the Republicans want to attach to it. Haven’t found one.

This is news reporting 101, people. Yes, the lead grafs should be about how the bill was killed in the Senate and how there’s this big political fight over it, but at some point the story should move into an explanation of what’s in the bleeping bill.

The Dallas Morning News offers a sentence:

The legislation would tighten borders and institute a new system to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers, in addition to giving up to 12 million illegal immigrants a pathway to legal status.

Somehow, I think there’s more to it than that.

Here’s the text of the actual bill if you want to slog through it. I’m a bit short of time this morning and cannot, which is why I was looking for a news story that digested it for me. And then there are the several amendments, which include one sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) to “declare English as the national language of the Government of the United States, and for other purposes,” one from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) requiring that voters must present a photo ID before they’re allowed into the voting booth, and one from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) preventing some temporary workers and the former illegals receiving amnesty from claiming an earned income tax credit.

I haven’t heard from anyone who actually likes this bill. I’m told by other liberals that the bill’s guest worker program would have instituted a new class of worker with virtually no bargaining powers, and that this almost certainly would suppress the wages of many citizens. Conservatives don’t like the bill because the notion of amnesty for illegal aliens sticks in their craw, and of course they want big fences along the Rio Grande.

The fence issue illustrates how the damnfool politicians can’t even agree on the stuff they agree on. Everyone wants more secure borders. Some on the extreme right claim the Democrats and President Bush are tools of the Open Borders Lobby, but in fact, no one in Congress — not even Ted Kennedy — is in favor of open borders.

The argument is not whether the borders should be more secure, but how to go about making them more secure. My understandng is that the Dems in general favor making smarter use of surveillance technologies. But that will not do for conservatives; they want a fence. I’m sure you already know how that would turn out. We’d spend billions on the bleeping fence, and then in a few months’ time the coyotes will have figured out how to get through it. Then we’d need the surveillance technologies to look for holes in the fence. The fence obviously represents something in rightie minds — something primitive and hostile, of course — that eludes the rest of us.

But President Bush had made a Big Bleeping Deal about immigration reform. So a bipartisan group of a dozen Senators got together a few months ago and wrote a bill that sort of satisfied what Bush wanted and also had a shot, they thought, at passing.

Carl Hulse and Robert Pear write for the New York Times:

The compromise legislation was announced on May 17 by authors who hailed it as a “grand bargain.” It held together through much of the debate because the negotiators — embodied on the right by Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, a Republican, and on the left by Mr. Kennedy — agreed to block proposals they thought would sink the measure. That led to such odd moments as when Mr. Kyl on Wednesday opposed an amendment he had helped write for last year’s unsuccessful immigration measure.

But the legislation began running into problems late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning as the Senate approved a Democratic proposal to limit a guest-worker program sought by business interests and backed by Republicans. Backers of the bill hoped to reverse that result if the measure moved forward. …

… Democrats were growing increasingly uneasy.

Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, said the bill had become “more punitive and more onerous” because of amendments adopted in the last few days. Mr. Menendez pointed, for example, to one that denied the earned-income tax credit to illegal immigrants who gain legal status under the bill.

Republicans kept throwing nastier and more punitive amendments at the bill, and Harry Reid thought if the thing had any chance at all of passing he’d better cut off more amendments and try to get the bill voted on. What happened yesterday was that the bill flunked a procedural test that would have allowed it to move forward toward a vote.

After a day of tension and fruitless maneuvering, senators rejected a Democratic call to move toward a final vote on the compromise legislation after Republicans complained that they had not been given enough opportunity to reshape the sprawling bill. Supporters of cutting off debate got only 45 of the 60 votes they needed; 50 senators opposed the cutoff.

“We are finished with this for the time being,” said Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader, as he turned the Senate to work on energy legislation.

An “inside story” post by rightie blogger John Hawkins suggests that conservative Republicans were trying deliberately to “gum up the works,” and it seems they succeeded.

It gets weirder. This bill was Bush’s baby. But apparently neither he nor anyone else in the White House tried to help it get passed. This week Harry Reid sent all kinds of signals to Bush that if he wanted his bill passed he had better put some pressure on Republican senators. But Bush is in Europe and the G8 summit, and apparently he doesn’t know that you can make overseas phone calls these days.

Some righties, meanwhile, interpreted Reid’s messages to Bush as pleas to help Reid get the bill passed, and yesterday I bounced into all manner of rightie bloggers who referred to the measure as “Reid’s bill.” The other allegations of paternity were made about Ted Kennedy, who is the Author of All Evil, and since Kennedy was one of the senators who worked on the original bill it must have been his fault. In fact, Little Lulu is now referring to Senator Ted as Bush’s “pal.” This is sort of like saying the President is in league with the Devil.

The righties really don’t like Bush any more.

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  1. acallidryas  •  Jun 8, 2007 @9:47 am

    A good summary of the problems the immigrants rights groups had with the bill can be found from the National Immigration Law Center, here: .

    In my job I’ve been doing a lot of advocacy work on the bill and it’s hard to know even from hour to hour what’s in it, with all the ammendments flying back and forth, which might be part of the problem in the news reporting, but I agree, it seems like they haven’t even tried. Here’s a short description of the key points:

    -would create “Z-visa” program as path to legalization for immigrants who have been here since May, 2005. But, they would have to return to their own country of origin and apply at the US Consulate before becoming fully naturalized
    -created “guest worker” program where workers could work for two years, then would have to return to their country of origin for one year. they could renew guest worker status twice, for total of 6 years, always with the one year gap between times working in the US
    -a very controversial mandatory electronic employment eligibility verfication system which raises signifcant privacy concerns (
    -increased security along the border through a combination of a fence and electronic surveillance methods and UAVs

    This is just a very short summary of the basic text of the bill. There are many, many ammendments. And yes, in large part the Republicans had put in enough ammendments to slow down the process and make the bill unpalatable to several immigration groups. NILC I believe did not support the version that was put out yesterday, and other immigrant groups did not support cloture yesterday, or did so only in the hope that they could significantly alter the bill in conference.

  2. Doug Hughes  •  Jun 8, 2007 @10:55 pm

    I read the article on the plight of poor Paris and (sob) I feel like running out and buying a “Free Paris Hilton” T-shirt. She got busted for DUI, then got caught twice driving on a suspended license. The judge gave her jail time. The Sheriff (who may have been looking out for his retirement fund) released her to home confinement in defiance of the judges orders, and the judge had the audacity to throw that bimbo’s cute little ass back in jail.

    So what?

    There are laws, and if you deliberately and flagrently violate them, there are consequences. That’s how it should be.

    I find myself to a large degree in the same camp as conservatives on the issue of illegal immigration. Nobody MADE anyone sneak across the border, any more than Paris was required to drive drunk. No one MADE illegals purchase black-market SSN for employment & ID purposes as many have. That can result in screwing up the credit & Social Security for the victims of ID theft. NO one wants to talk about the economic impact of flooding the labor market with cheap labor. Legal or illegal, too many workers drives down wages, which is why the Chamber of Commerce and Big Business has been the prime backer of looking the other way in illeglas for decades, including Clintons term.

    There should be consequences for people who are in this country illegally. Those consequences will in some cases, affect children who ARE citizens. Of couse, if I commit a crime and go to jail (insted of being deported), that has consequences for my daughter and wife, who are legal. No one would suggest as a defense that I should go free because my daughter is blonde and cute, or that Paris should go free because she is sexy and rich, so why is there such an outcry of sympathy for criminals who entered the country illegally or overstayed a legal visa.

    BTW, my wife is not a US citizen, she is legal and it was not easy for her to get here. Disagree if you wish, but don’t suggest I am racist or red-neck.

  3. POed Lib  •  Jun 10, 2007 @10:10 am

    The bill sucked. It was way way too hard on some immigrants, and WAY WAY too easy on others.

    In particular, the provisions INCREASING the number of H-1B visas were HORRIBLE. We citizens of the US need jobs too. The H-1B visa program increases the number of foreign passes for high-tech jobs. These jobs were, until 1995, exclusively done by Americans. We wrote the code which runs the web. While an occasional program was written by non-US, 80-90 % were US.

    So, what happened in 1995 or thereabouts? Y2K and the tech boom. These drove the need for IT workers higher and higher, until the Gov’mnt decided that a temporary increase in foreign visas was needed.

    That boom is over. Today, we are in a bust cycle, and yet the IT firms continue to crusade for more and more IT workers. Why? To decrease labor costs, and that’s the only reason.

  4. maha  •  Jun 10, 2007 @11:24 am

    So, what happened in 1995 or thereabouts? Y2K and the tech boom.

    You are right. I have just just a little quibble — although the tech boom was a big factor in economic growth in the late 1990s, it was far from the whole ball game. Parts of the economy other than the technology industry enjoyed real growth in that period also.

  5. Allison  •  Jun 11, 2007 @3:27 pm

    Call your congressman/senator whenever you have a question on a bill. Ask for a legislative assistant who works in the area you’re curious about. Their staffs know just about everything, including the what the political score is (although they may not be able to share that with you for strategic reasons). You may not get a live person (although often you will) but if you ask for staff instead of asking for the member, you’ll almost certainly get a call back.

    I work in a state legislative office – and we know all the juicy details (usually more than we’d like) and I can only imagine the MUCH LARGER staffs of Senators/Congressmen would have specialists – I know mine does.

    Yes, yes, the blog was about how the media uses a game frame instead of substantive reporting. But still…people should know that this information is not unavailable. It just takes a little more effort than a google search and a perusal of the morning paper.

  6. maha  •  Jun 11, 2007 @3:46 pm

    Allison — were it not for the fact that I was short on time, I could have read the bleeping bill for myself. The bill as it was voted on was posted on the web.