Politics & Policy

Say It Ain’t So, Mike

The Pence immigration plan has let conservatives down.

Shoeless Joe Jackson was a phenomenal baseball player caught up in the Black Sox Scandal in which some team members conspired to throw the 1919 World Series. A young fan watched his hero Shoeless Joe leave the courthouse and gave us the immortal line “Say it ain’t so, Joe.” I had much the same feeling when conservative and principled Congressman Mike Pence emerged from the Heritage Foundation after his speech outlining his “rational middle ground” immigration proposal. “Say it ain’t so, Mike.” Say it ain’t so that you have played into the hands of the Bush-Kennedy-McCain amnesty coalition.

#ad#I first want to be clear about one thing: Congressman Pence is a friend of mine, of whom I think so much that I have said, with deference to his committed Protestantism, that the only position for which I would not support him is pope. I believe Mike’s motives are pure. It is his policy and his timing I oppose. Our national character and destiny would be irrevocably altered by either the Senate version or the Pence proposal on immigration; its implications would be greater even than those of the War on Terror.

President Bush has aggressively promoted, without numerical limits, amnesty by any other name, and his support for the Senate bill amounts to support for a guarantee of citizenship to law breakers. Over the course of five-and-a-half years, the administration has quietly (and, I believe, intentionally) failed to enforce our existing immigration laws. An employer who willfully hired illegals was 19 times more likely to be sanctioned under Bill Clinton than George Bush. Illegal border crossings have increased under Bush, and the value of illegal drug trade across our southern border has risen to a whopping $65 billion dollars in 2005, dwarfing that of oil, Mexico’s largest legitimate industry of $28 billion, and more than tripling the $20 billion Mexicans working in the U.S. sent to their families in Mexico last year. Congress cannot force a president to enforce the law. Consequently, over the past 20 years, and especially during this administration, we have seen the flow of illegal immigration grow from a stream to a river to a flood. This deluge now threatens to sink what has become “Lifeboat America.”

In response to national outrage over illegal immigration, the House passed tough, common-sense enforcement provisions. The Senate watered down enforcement and added colossal amnesty provisions to legalize and grant a path to citizenship to more people than the grand total of all legal immigrants to the United States in all of our nation’s history. All these estimates are based upon the presumption of effective enforcement, in spite of the failure of the Bush administration to enforce our immigration laws thus far.

Many Republicans aren’t happy at all with the president’s plans, and so we had the makings of a fight. The opponents stepped up into the ring: in one corner, with a big, bright, scarlet letter “A” branded on their robes, were the amnesty mercenaries of the Senate, representing 42 percent of Republicans and 91 percent of Democrats; in the opposite corner, supported by the rule of law, were the patriotic passengers and crew of Lifeboat America, representing 88 percent of House Republicans and 18 percent of House Democrats. Then into the middle walked Congressman Pence to present his “no amnesty” (not right away, at least) “real rational middle ground” speech, in an effort to broker the peace and call off the battle royal. Pence injected into the debate the wrong kind of proposal at the worst possible time.

He teases conservatives with a “free market approach” that sets up private companies as “Ellis Island Centers” in foreign countries, where applications from aliens for temporary work cards to work legally in the U.S. can be processed. The bill requires all illegals who seek legalization to self-deport back to their home countries for papers, in an effort to avoid the strong objections to amnesty. There would be no limits (even the Bush-Kennedy-McCain Senate bill has limits) set on the number of “guest workers” during the first three years, so that the market could establish the demand for cheap labor. The open-border lobby calls it “labor market equilibrium.” The Pence plan says that “a reasonable limit…will be determined by the Department of Labor.” The plan would cede congressional constitutional authority over immigration to a presidential appointee who could expand the number of immigrants by millions. The power to transform America irrevocably would be granted to a bureaucrat to be named later by a president to be elected later. How many voting, legalized immigrants does Pence think would be too many for a President Hillary?

The Pence plan is a siren song, even more dangerous than the Senate bill, because it threatens to lure Lifeboat America onto the rocks to be sunk in the hazardous Sea of Presumption. No matter how promising the placid waters look, how enchanting the melody of enforcement sounds, or how luring the lyrics for legalizing cheap labor may seem, the result will be tens of millions of aliens pouring across our borders, both newly legalized and illegal. Without the will to deport, there exists no deterrent to stop them from coming. In fact, the Pence plan will add power to the jobs magnet, attracting more aliens.

The Pence plan has other major flaws. “Ellis Island Centers” would operate predominately in Mexico, earning a commission to process employees for American companies. Employers of illegals will offer a premium to centers to circumvent the law by legalizing their current employees without requiring them to return to their home countries. If this effort fails, employers will then require “Ellis Island Center” companies to pre-clear employees before sending them back home for a day. Free markets do not pay for bad or no results. That is why the government does background checks, not the hirelings of law breakers. The result would be chartered buses, loaded with illegal employees, making round-trips to Juarez, Nogales, and Tijuana“”

It is a major flaw to presume that “Ellis Island Centers” could process background checks more efficiently than the government, for they would still have to rely on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) databases. Also, the beneficiaries of the services would be only those pre-cleared for specific employers. No one will leave America without a guarantee of a job upon return. Illegals who work here will stay here. More illegals will come on the promise of amnesty, and the 12 to 20 million in our midst will become 70 to 90 million within a generation. The Pence plan grants six years to each guest worker. If Pence is not willing to deport those here illegally now, why would he be willing to pull them out by their roots after an additional six years? This is the veil over the path to citizenship. Under the Pence “no amnesty” plan, citizenship becomes the implied reward and delayed amnesty the inevitable result.

Odysseus escaped the powerful temptation of the siren song only because his sailors, out of respect and affection for their captain, tied him to the mast. He thrashed about and called on his crew to untie him, but they refused until they had sailed past the temptation. Mike, Lifeboat America’s passengers and crew have to strap you to the mast as we chart this course through the rocky waters of the immigration debate. It’s a narrow channel, in hazardous seas, through which Lifeboat America must resist many alluring temptations. Congressman Pence, America is going to need you for a long time as a leader in the Conservative Movement. Just say it ain’t so, Mike.

– Congressman Steve King represents the Fifth District of Iowa.

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