The Senate Nears a Decision?

Media consensus says that the Senate might pass S. 2611 (Hagel-Martinez) as soon as today, now that the Senate has approved Sen. Frist's (R-Tenn.) motion for cloture on the bill and Sen. Sessions's (R-Ala.) attempt to derail the legislation as a budget-buster has failed. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Ca.) amendment that would have completely changed the structure of the earned legalization program in S. 2611 also failed this week.

Columnist Tom Oliphant, speaking today on The Al Franken Show, calls the bill "a turkey" that "works politically but won't work in practice". He thinks Feinstein's amendment would have saved it.

S. 2611 certainly outdistances H.R. 4437, the bill the House passed in December, on the way towards a logical and just legislation. But S. 2611 does not present a workable path to legalization. Nor does it come close to satisfying immigration foes.
The bill divides undocumented immigrants into three arbitrary groups based on their length of residency here and affords each group different legal provisions. It is irrational. Rachel Swarns writes in The New York Times, that the bill would "put most illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship". That's not wholly true. Only those who have been here since before April 6, 2001, would have a path toward legal status, and, maybe, eventually, citizenship. Everyone else would have to leave either immediately or in three years. It's like bandaging a festering gash with a band-aid that's lost almost all of its stickiness and expecting it to hold until the wound heals. The undocumented population might shrink for a short time, but the lack of long-term provision with cause a re-growth soon enough. (For a deeper examination of the bill and its shortcomings, read my latest article.)

The bill also includes provisions to build barriers on the border and to back the President's plan to deploy the National Guard. And a late amendment reduced the number of foreign guest workers to be admitted annually from 320,000 to 200,000.

The bill doesn't go far enough in either direction to satisfy many people who have opinions on the issue. And that's just what will probably see it pass the Senate. But the House will put up a fight, judging from its having created a bill that focuses solely on enforcement and has no path toward legal status for the undocumented.

It seems like our legislators worry about not appearing to take action on such a hot-button topic in an election year. That's one of the reasons they voted to stop discussion on S. 2611, which sounds like a bad idea after such a short period of debate. It's a sign that appearance means more than substance here. But with such inadequate legislation on the table, despite the horrid mess the immigration system is now, it might be best if nothing passed at all, at least for now.


Post a Comment

<< Home