Former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina said Tuesday that lawmakers should be more transparent about the comprehensive immigration bill they are hammering out behind closed doors with business and labor leaders.
He said he expects such a process to yield a proposal that holds “hostage” fixes to the nation’s broken immigration system “in return for amnesty” for illegal immigrants.
Mr. DeMint, who left his seat in the Senate this year to head the conservative Heritage Foundation, predicted that lawmakers will try to fast track a bill through Congress and said that conservatives must band together to make sure the public knows what is in the proposal — much as they did ion 2007, the last time lawmakers took a swing at immigration reform.
“One of the things that helped us defeat the bill last time is that all the promises came out and we were quickly able to get it onto the internet and to show people what was really in the bill,” Mr. DeMint told reporters and bloggers. “What we believe at Heritage is that this should be an open and transparent process, and it should be step-by-step so Americans can be brought along with what needs to be changed.”
Mr. DeMint said that the nation has “seen this movie before” in 1986, when lawmakers failed to follow through on their promises to secure the U.S.-Mexico border before signing off on the immigration reform package passed under former President Ronald Reagan.
“The key thing is to fix the system that has caused all these problems, not to start with how you deal with those hear unlawfully, but to fix the system so we won’t recreate the problem again,” he said, adding that an overhaul of the system should start with bolstering border security.
The bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators that have been writing an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system have said that they could introduce a bill as early as this week.