The political question about the immigration reform bill unveiled at the White House today is whether it has any chance of passage. Robert’s piece on the home page (I don’t mean to pick on you, Robert, really!) takes issue with the bill’s “controversial” narrowing of the family categories and cap on refugee admissions (there’s no statutory limit now). He writes, correctly, that “Both big businesses and many on the left are beholden to high levels of immigration, low-skill and high-, and a filibuster will require 60 votes in the Senate where Republicans have only 52.” Overcoming that hurdled, he claims, is harder with these provisions.
But leaving the current level of overall immigration – or even doubling it to 2 million a year, as the Gang of Eight bill would have done – would still not get 60 votes.
The RAISE Act isn’t as pointless as that sounds, though. First of all, major changes in public policy often require several Congresses, and intervening elections, to come to fruition. That’s why it’s not a left-handed compliment to call the Cotton-Perdue bill a “great start” or an “opening bid.”
But the bill actually does have a non-zero chance of passage, one that doesn’t require Lindsey Graham or Chuck Schumer to magically change their minds on immigration. Instead, the key is DACA.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is the lawless amnesty that Obama decreed in 2012 to goose Hispanic voter turnout, after Speaker Nancy Pelosi failed in 2010 to get the Democrat House to pass the DREAM Act. That bill would have amnestied illegal immigrants who came before age 16. DACA, Obama’s simulacrum of the DREAM Act, is only able to provide two-year renewable work permits (plus Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, and access to EITC).
It’s DACA’s perishable nature that is the key. While I’ve been critical of the president for not pulling the plug on DACA as he promised during the campaign, the administration has suggested they might still do so. What’s more, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has warned that if DACA isn’t terminated by September, he’ll be adding it to his state’s lawsuit against the subsequent DAPA executive amnesty, very possibly causing it to be struck down in court.
The fear that the work permits of 800,000 illegal-alien DREAMers would be allowed to expire without renewal has prompted Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin to reintroduce the DREAM Act. On its own, the bill’s chances of passage are little better than the RAISE Act’s.
But if the supporters of the DREAM Act are scared enough, they might be willing to deal. A package that includes DREAM, RAISE, and enforcement measures to prevent future DREAMer populations from forming, might actually have a chance. I wouldn’t bet my house on it, but it’s not crazy.