Politics & Policy

The Disappointing Omnibus Bill

About the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress and signed by the president on Friday, we have only one question: What were Republican leaders thinking?

If there is any takeaway from the Republican presidential campaign so far, it is that Republican voters are anxious about large-scale immigration and frustrated that the federal government repeatedly demonstrates no interest in doing anything about it. We strongly object to ham-fisted proposals, such as those of Donald Trump, to address these concerns, but it is clear that our thoughtless immigration policies have weakened, and continue to weaken, our economy, our social stability, and our security. Yet instead of responding to those concerns, Republicans sent the president a bill that will exacerbate them.

It would be bad enough had Republicans merely acquiesced to foolish policies, but in this bill they actively advanced them. The bill’s most egregious proposal will temporarily expand the H-2B visa program, quadrupling the issuance of visas to foreign workers for nonagricultural or temporary service jobs in 2016 — and it was a Republican initiative from start to finish.

#share#What is the rationale? There is strong evidence that large-scale hiring of foreign workers depresses wages for Americans, and it’s not as if Ferris wheels and ski lifts will go unmanned if we stop importing Peruvian labor. Clearly, Republican leaders bent to the demands of a tiny segment of employers.

Meanwhile, they capitulated on a host of other proposals. Despite serious concerns about the integrity of our refugee-vetting procedures in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the bill fully funds the government’s refugee-resettlement program, facilitating the president’s promise to settle 10,000 Syrians in the U.S. over the coming year. Despite revelations about outrageous criminal activity in America’s 340 “sanctuary cities,” the bill permits federal grants to those cities without adding any qualifying conditions. And despite a bipartisan effort to reform the cronyism-riddled EB-5 visa program, under which foreigners can obtain a green card if they invest a certain amount in a business that creates or preserves ten jobs for U.S. citizens, Republican leadership dismissed the reform effort and extended the EB-5 program as is through September.

#related#Since Democrats have hastened to embrace a policy of de facto open borders, come what may, it falls to Republican officeholders to offer a more sober assessment of our immigration policy — which they should. It’s good policy and — given that 9 out of 10 Americans want immigration levels either kept where they are or reduced — it’s good politics. Republican leaders should be attempting to halt illegal immigration, reduce legal immigration (especially from countries that pose a particular threat to American security), and figure out ways to assimilate immigrants who are already here and to reform the failed procedures by which we evaluate those who want to come.

But this omnibus bill is a clear indication that Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have other priorities.

Editors’ note: This article has been updated since its initial publication.

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

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