What Can We Expect on Immigration in the House?

by Mark Krikorian

House Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte posted yesterday in this happy Corner, objecting to Andrew Stiles’s report suggesting that the chairman was boosting the anemic prospects of the Senate’s Gang of Eight amnesty bill. He wrote that he has not wavered in his belief that the comprehensive Schumer-Rubio bill passed by the Senate is “fundamentally flawed and unworkable” and that he is pursuing a “step-by-step approach to immigration reform” by considering targeted legislation addressing discrete issues.

And, in fact, the House Judiciary Committee has approved four such bills: the enforcement-strengthening SAFE Act (H.R.2278); the Legal Workforce Act (H.R.1772), which would phase in E-Verify for all new hires; the SKILLS Visa Act (H.R.2131), which would increase tech immigration in a variety of ways; and the AG Act (H.R.1773), to import more foreign farmworkers. The first two I like, the second two I don’t. And further legislation is likely, including a bill to amnesty the so-called DREAMers, illegal aliens who came here as children, tentatively called the KIDS Act.

Whatever you think of the specific measures, this is the way legislation should be crafted, rather than in an elephantine package like the Schumer-Rubio bill, longer than the New Testament or the Torah, that no single person can read before voting on it.

The fear, as Andrew wrote, is that one or more of these targeted measures “could eventually serve as the basis for a bicameral conference committee that would inevitably result in a ‘compromise’ closely resembling the Senate bill.” In other words, any negotiation where the Senate brings its single huge bill and the House brings a set of targeted bills will result in a single huge bill. There’s really no other possible outcome.

It’s true that Speaker Boehner has said he’d abide by the Hastert Rule, not bringing to the floor any bill that didn’t have the support of the majority of Republicans, but once the conference had given its imprimatur to a slightly revised version of the comprehensive Senate bill, the pressure would be overwhelming to approve it. It’s clear Boehner wants to pass such a bill, and the White House is actually fine with the targeted approach so long as it’s just a ruse: “Piecemeal bills are ‘OK if we can get to a place and sit down and negotiate a final product,’ she [WH immigration adviser Felicia Escobar] said.”

This is why the Hastert Rule pledge is inadequate. As Mickey Kaus notes, it’s not impossible Boehner would push a comprehensive amnesty bill over his own party’s objections as his final act as speaker, and retire to a promised lucrative lobbying gig. Or a comprehensive bill might get 50 percent plus one of the GOP caucus by amnestying the illegal population only with work visas rather than citizenship, thus giving (they hope) political cover to gelatinous Republicans desperate to satisfy the demands of relentless corporate lobbyists. As Andrew also notes, even open-borders hard-liners like Frank Sharry are willing to consider this non-citizenship amnesty approach, though mainly because they know it’s a con, and Congress will upgrade the amnestied illegals to full green-card status after a few years of being attacked as racists by . . . Frank Sharry.

To address these concerns, Chairman Goodlatte and anyone else committed to the step-by-step approach must demand that Speaker Boehner explicitly pledge not to go to conference on the Schumer-Rubio bill under any circumstances. If the House passes, say, a DREAM Act-like measure, the Speaker should send it to the Senate and invite them to pass their own version, after which there can be a conference committee. Ditto with a farmworker bill or an E-Verify bill or a tech-visa bill. If Harry Reid refuses to reexamine his “comprehensive” approach, then the House leadership needs to stand firm and make an explicit argument against gigantic, amalgamated Obamacare-style bills as an irresponsible way to make law. If that means no bill ends up on the president’s desk (even a bill I happen to like, like the SAFE Act), then so be it. Any 1,000-page immigration bill — regardless of how it is tweaked — is worse than passing nothing.