Senate Democrats have blocked a bill to keep the federal government running and fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program for the next six years. They have, that is, partially shut the government down. They have taken this step not because of any strong objection to provisions of the funding bill but because it omits a provision they want: an amnesty for illegal immigrants who came to our country as minors. Most Republicans, including President Trump, favor this amnesty as well, but the parties have been unable to agree on what other policies, such as restrictions on follow-on immigration from the amnesty, should be coupled with it.
The Democrats are trying to spin the media and the public into thinking that the shutdown is the Republicans’ responsibility, pointing out that Republicans “control” both chambers of Congress and the White House and that several Senate Republicans voted against the bill too. It remains the case that the government would be fully open for business if Democrats had not voted against a bill — a bill, again, which has nothing of substance they oppose — to get leverage for the policy they favor. The Democrats’ negotiating stance is: Give us this amnesty, or we’ll make the government shut down and blame you Republicans for it. It is the exact tactic they decried in 2013, when Republicans refused to pass legislation to keep the government funded unless Democrats agreed to a partial repeal of Obamacare.
The majority of Republicans who favor the amnesty, and even the minority of Republicans who favor it with no strings attached, should not reward this Democratic behavior. They should not reward it even if it is true that the public will fall for the Democratic spin and Republicans will sustain some political damage. The Democratic demands both are unreasonable in themselves and set a bad precedent.
The end of the amnesty for illegal immigrants who came here as minors — President Obama implemented it without legislative authorization, and President Trump said he would cancel it unless authorized — will not mean a mass deportation of this population. Republicans should agree to a limited amnesty only if it comes with real enforcement measures, such as mandatory E-Verify for new hires, and limits on the ability of the amnestied population to sponsor further immigrants. Only such a deal should be acceptable to Republicans, whether it happens in the context of a bill to keep the government funded or separate legislation. Hang tough, Republicans.