The Corner

Immigration Enigma

I cannot forecast to you the action of Congress. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. The key is Congress’s own interest. (But what the heck is Congress’s own interest?)

Trying to game out what’s going on with the immigration bill is a difficult and frustrating business. I’ve been asking some folks who might be in a position to know, and no-one seems to understand the inside motivations of the key players with any certainty. Harry Reid seems to want the bill to fail. Is that because he hopes to damage Bush? Bush is already pretty damaged. Why not take the electoral potential of a bill like this–all those new Hispanic voters? But are Hispanics actually so upset about the family reunification provisions that they’d rather wait for a better bill under a Democratic congress? Some Dems seem to oppose the bill as not liberal enough, and Reid may actually be one of them. Those Dems may want to run on immigration, and would like the bill to fail so they can.

Why do some Republicans support this bill? Agribusiness interests in their state? Conviction? Desire to get a polarizing issue out of the way? I’ve heard all sorts of motives, and I’ve also heard claims that many of the key players on both sides have been just plain stupid. Is Kyl playing a crafty game, or was he simply snookered by Kennedy–and so now forced to go through the motions, while letting the bill down gradually? Is Reid a wily underground opponent of the bill, or did he rush a vote because he actually believed that would force Republicans to say yes?

I’m not convinced that anyone, other than the players themselves, understands the motivations here–and even the players own motives and calculations may be confused and shifting. The press is reduced to guess-work, and in any case an intense pro-immigration bias colors all their reports. In short, trying to game out what’s really going on is a confusing morass, and folks who think they know probably don’t.

The one thing I think is clear is that, from the perspective of conservatives concerned about uncontrolled immigration, the bill is a joke. It is not a genuine compromise, but an amnesty with window dressing. The big picture is that the business wing of the Republican Party has thrown conservatives overboard and struck a deal with the Democrats. (Ultimately, that’s bad for all wings of the Party.) Every specific issue conservatives care about on immigration is handled disastrously by this bill–and that includes the supposed concessions to conservatives, like the point system. But beyond that, the precise motives of many of the key players, like the ultimate future of the bill, remain riddles wrapped….