Our friend Mickey Kaus is fretting that conventional wisdom now holds that a “comprehensive” immigration reform is likely to pass this year. I still say it’s doubtful, Mickey. In Yuma, Arizona yesterday, President Bush sounded optimistic — “I think the atmosphere up there is good right now” and if it doesn’t happen it won’t be for lack of trying by the White House. The administration has been working intensely with GOP allies in the hope of finding a reform that, unlike last year’s, could win the support of a majority of Senate Republicans. The outline they have come up with is more restrictive than the bill passed by the Senate, but conservatives remain uneasy about it and are certainly unwilling to see it move to the left which is where it would be headed in any negotiation with Ted Kennedy. The White House might see its draft as a starting point for discussions but to maintain GOP support, the draft plan would have to be a bottom-line and Sen. Kennedy, quite reasonably, wants to see it modified to his liking. He has explained that the “stakeholders” in immigration reform, i.e. the illegal aliens most affected by its provisions must be satisfied with the outcome. Amnesty supporters have already condemned the plan’s hefty fines on illegal aliens – $3,500 every three years to renew visas and a $10,000 fine to convert to legal permanent status. Of course, they are included in order to take a tough pose on illegal immigration and would be waived in the name of “hardship” in the blink of an eye. Immigration advocates are complaining bitterly about the scheduled increase in naturalization fees because it “will place a nearly insurmountable barrier in the path of legal permanent residents who want to become full participants in our American democratic process.” The fee is expected to increase by $200.
In the absence of a WH/GOP/Kennedy agreement, the Judiciary Committee will approve a liberal plan along partisan lines and a majority of Senate Repubicans could be expected to oppose a Kennedy bill. This year’s emphasis on enforcement “triggers,” bigger penalties, and more demands on illegal aliens seeking legal status reflects politicians’ recognition that border security — not amnesty — was popular on the campaign trail last year.
A largely Democratic immigration-reform bill wouldn’t provide the GOP cover Speaker Pelosi wants before she takes up the contentious issue.
So, as we wait anxiously for news from the Bahamas, I think Howard K. Stern has a better chance of being declared Danilynn’s father than “comprehensive” immigration reform has of passing Congress this year.