Politics & Policy

Amended or Not: No

In a final theatrical flourish in the immigration-reform drama, the Senate has scheduled a hasty vote on the so-called amendment offered by Senators John Hoeven and Bob Corker — an “amendment” that amounts to an entirely new piece of legislation. The Senate is to be presented with a Monday vote on a 1,200-page bill substantially amended on Friday, meaning that few if any of our senators will have had the chance even to read the final bill, much less to digest its details. As Yuval Levin and others have noted, this amounts to another case of passing the bill to find out what’s in it. Republicans should not be party to that.

Among the many promises he has made regarding this issue, Senator Marco Rubio averred that he would not support the passage of a bill without sufficient time for debate, discussion, study, and public input. This is yet another assurance from Senator Rubio that has gone by the wayside. If the amendment is adopted on Monday and Senator Harry Reid follows through with his plan to have a vote on the legislation before the July 4 recess, that leaves a matter of mere days to evaluate it. That means no score from the Congressional Budget Office, though the bill will have hundreds of billions of dollars in fiscal consequences. That means no time for detailed analysis of the so-called security triggers in the bill, which are much less robust than the Gang of Eight would have us believe.

This is, in a word, dishonest. No senator — and especially no Republican — associating himself with this sort of charade deserves to escape with his reputation undamaged. Perhaps that is no great loss for Senator John McCain, who has for years shown himself to have grievously defective judgment on the subject of immigration, but Senator Rubio emerges from this process much diminished.

The fundamental problem with this bill, both in its earlier form and in the new Hoeven-Corker form, is that it confers an immediate amnesty on illegals already present in the country in exchange for promises of tightened border security at some point in the future. Not very tight, mind you: The bill’s own supporters do not contest forecasts that over the next 20 years we would once again find ourselves with 11 million or more illegal immigrants, just as we have now. Stronger security provisions, such as requiring that the border fence be completed before amnesty is handed down, were rejected. Under this bill, the only purported consequence of failing to secure the borders is delaying the process under which the newly legalized residents would be able to apply for green cards and citizenship. Given that many illegals have been here for decades — and that they care more about legalization than about the prospect of citizenship — slowing down that process would not matter very much.

Another key defect is the absence of a meaningful standard for policing those who enter the country legally on visas but overstay them — the source of about 40 percent of our illegal immigrants. The bill promises the development and implementation of a system to deal with that problem, but nothing else. That very same mandate already has been on the law books for years, with no action.

And that is just on the subject of illegal immigration. The bill would also expand legal immigration to unprecedented levels, with the Gang of Eight having rejected even the most modest of limitations. There is much that is unknown about this latest iteration of the bill, but we do know that the bill would not stop future illegal immigration, would not physically secure the borders, and would not ensure that visa overstays are curtailed. Which is to say, what we know is worrisome and what we do not know is more worrisome still.

Amended or not, this bill would simply offer an amnesty and then set about creating the constituency for the next amnesty.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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