The recently passed Senate bill giving amnesty to 12-15 million illegal aliens presents a challenge to House Republicans, but it also presents an opportunity. The House should respond with a strong reaffirmation of the enforcement-first strategy for border control and immigration-law enforcement, an approach strongly favored by a large majority of the American people. If House Republicans abandon that path, they will invite the desertion of their conservative base and the certain loss of the House in the November elections.
Senate Democrats voted 38 to 4 for the amnesty bill, while a majority of Senate Republicans rejected it. The amnesty bill is clearly a Democrat bill that passed with Republican support, thanks to Sen. Frist’s machinations. House Republicans must refuse to drink Bill Frist’s Kool Aid concoction–not even a tiny spoonful labeled “amnesty lite.”
Last December, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4437, a bill that embodies the enforcement-first strategy for border control and immigration enforcement. The Senate bill takes the exact opposite approach. The two bills are polar opposites not only in text but also in spirit and in purpose. For this reason it is impractical and delusional to try to marry one to the other. Despite the advances of modern science, we do not yet have the capacity to marry a snake to a hawk and produce an eagle.
The crux of the problem is that in the deceptively packaged Senate bill, border control is there as a promise but amnesty is guaranteed, immediate, and irreversible. That is the formula that failed in the 1986 amnesty program, and the House must not buy that pig-in-a-poke again. In such omnibus plans, enforcement can be delayed, diluted, and sabotaged in numerous ways. That is why “enforcement first” is not a slogan–it is an urgent necessity.
The American people expect more from the “People’s House” than joining the Senate’s sellout to the cheap-labor lobby and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. If House Republicans do not answer that call to duty, we will deserve neither our citizens’ respect nor their votes.
There is one sure way to derail the Senate’s amnesty bill: The House Republican leadership should tell the Senate we will not go to conference on the Senate bill. The House should simply challenge the Senate to act on H.R. 4437. Until the Senate sends the House an enforcement-only bill, we have nothing to conference about.
A few Republicans in the House have called for compromise by suggesting clever plans that amount to “amnesty lite.” Down that path lies disaster because “enforcement first” cannot be compromised: Either Congress secures the borders before considering new guest-worker plans or we create a guest-worker program on the mere promise of border security. Genuine enforcement cannot be a mere part of a “comprehensive bill,” it must precede any other reform. House Republicans who break ranks with HR 4437 are choosing a path of certain catastrophe–for the nation in the long run and for our party in November.
If House Republicans take the enforcement first platform to the American people in November, they can win. There is no advantage whatsoever for Republicans in agreeing to write a bad bill in conference on the premise that even a bad bill is better than no bill at all. That is the argument we hear from the White House and it is sheer nonsense. The president does not have to face the voters in November, we do. The president lost all credibility on immigration reform in March 2005 when he called the Minutemen “vigilantes” with Vicente Fox standing at his side. It is time for the president to put his attack dogs on a short leash and let House Republicans chart their own course.
Fate has given the House of Representatives the task of rescuing our national sovereignty and our children’s futures from the Senate’s folly. There are signs we may be up to the challenge, but if we are not, neither history nor the voters will forgive us.
–Rep. Tom Tancredo represents Colorado’s 6th district and is chairman of the 97-member Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus.