- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2007

President Bush seems to have learned all the wrong lessons from the collapse last week of the Senate immigration bill. Instead of going back to the drawing board and coming up with an immigration bill that actually improves border security, the president went to Capitol Hill yesterday in an effort to revive the “compromise” pushed by Sens. Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican. To get an idea of how surreal immigration politics have become on Capitol Hill, Mr. Bush has been receiving and acting upon some unsolicited political advice from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ( whose poll numbers are even lower than the president’s).

On Monday, Mr. Bush received his marching orders from Mr. Reid: Mr. President, the Democratic Party has done everything it can do to help you push an open-borders immigration bill through the Senate. You can kiss “immigration reform” good-bye if you don’t secure the necessary Republican support. In effect, Mr. Reid is demanding that Mr. Bush (whose job-approval rating yesterday was just 36 percent, according to Rasmussen Reports) pressure 15 additional Senate Republicans into committing political suicide by voting to cut off debate on amendments to a bill that would grant amnesty to between 12 and 20 million illegals. The bill also would grant illegal aliens who belong to gangs legal status if they sign a statement renouncing gang activity, and it would give legal status to suspected terrorists and illegal aliens who abscond from the law following deportation orders. Also, aliens who fail to register as sex offenders, aliens convicted of domestic violence, stalking or crimes against children and aliens convicted of at least three DUIs would be given a stay-out-of-jail free card. And this is only a partial listing of what is wrong with the bill.

Aside from the substantive problems with the legislation, we see no evidence that Americans are clamoring for a bill that throws open the borders to virtually everyone who is already here illegally. Mr. Reid pulled the measure from the Senate floor after Americans deluged their senators with criticism of the bill and demanded its defeat. A wealth of public-opinion data from the highly respected pollster Scott Rasmussen shows that just 23 percent of Americans support the Senate legislation. According to Mr. Rasmussen, support for the immigration bill has taken a political toll on support for Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who makes no secret of his willingness to work with Mr. Kennedy to push the legislation through the Senate. For most of this year, Mr. McCain was second in the Republican presidential polls. Since the immigration debate began, however, he has fallen to fourth place, with support from 11 percent of the voters, down from 17 percent last month. Nor is the immigration issue helping him in Arizona, where Mr. McCain won re-election in 2004 with 77 percent of the vote. Today he is viewed favorably by just 47 percent of voters (and 51 percent rate him unfavorably).

Republicans are deluding themselves if they think that passing Mr. Kennedy’s open-borders bill will somehow benefit them politically — no matter what the focus groups and political spinmeisters tell them.