The Lamp

Where truth can be shared.

Playing Politics Over Immigration

Posted by thelamp on August 10, 2006

 Congressional leaders in the House of Representatives continue to suggest by their actions that immigration is not an urgent priority that can be solved solely by enforcing our nation’s borders. They’re wrong on both counts.

The House this month is planning 21 hearings across the country in 13 states before forming a conference committee to iron out differences between the bill it passed last year and the version the Senate passed earlier this year. The House’s bill is focused solely on border security, while the Senate’s version also includes programs that will allow immigrants who entered the country illegally an opportunity to eventually become U.S. citizens.

House leaders insist they want to determine how the American people feel about the content of both bills, but it’s more likely that they simply want to assure more media coverage of their enforcement-only position. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., spoke for many when he said last week, “I don’t think that the hearings are gong to have any significant impact on any Congressional legislation. I think that we all pretty well know what the bills say.”

The more troubling aspect of the hearings this month is the notion that illegal immigration is not an urgent matter. It is. The House and Senate should have convened a conference committee immediately after the Senate passed its version of the legislation. There’s no reason a compromise between the two bills could not have been completed before Congress’s summer recess began. Instead, there’s a very real possibility that no substantive immigration legislation will emerge from this session of Congress at all.

House leadership may be doing nothing but passing the buck to future members of Congress on this issue – and by the time the next Congress gets around to fixing the immigration mess, the situation is likely to be much worse than it is today.

Meanwhlie, the administration may be doing more good than any Congressional hearings could ever do. By cracking down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants, the government is starting to remove much of the incentive immigrants have to break the law in order to enter and live in this country. The government levied 417 fines against businesses that exploited immigrant labor in 1999, but just three such fines were issued in 2003. This year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have made 445 criminal arrests of employers.

This enforcement action on the government’s part sends a clear message that there again are consequences for breaking the law by hiring illegal immigrants. It’s also quite a contrast to the House’s foot-dragging on this issue.



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