- The Washington Times - Friday, August 13, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has been arguing that no Hispanic in his right mind would vote for Republicans fed up with illegal immigration. Stirring the pot in the illegal-immigration debate isn’t working out so well for him. All week he’s been buried in the backlash of conservative Latinos.

The senator thought he could gain support from Hispanics by attacking some Republicans’ call to review the current interpretation of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, Mr. Reid attacked Republicans saying, “They’ve either taken leave of their senses or their principles.”

The 14th Amendment grants citizenship to any person born in the United States. It also grants citizenship to babies born on American soil to illegal immigrants. The babies are commonly known as “anchor babies” because their citizenship status makes it easier for their undocumented relatives to achieve legal immigration status by family-reunification measures found in the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. A new study published by thePew Hispanic Center reports that one in 13 babies born in the United States has illegal immigrant parents.

Regardless of whether changing citizenship standards is good public policy, it is Mr. Reid who has taken leave of his senses. The position for which he attacks some Republicans happens to be the very position he held until recently.

Indeed, Mr. Reid has done a complete turnaround on the issue. In 1993, he proposed an immigration bill known as the Immigration Stabilization Act of 1993 (S. 1351). The legislation never became law and only made it as far as the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration and refugee affairs. However, the bill Mr. Reid wrote was tough, even by the standards of the most conservative border-state representatives.

The bill’s summary reveals Mr. Reid’s intention:

“A bill to curb criminal activity by aliens, to defend against acts of international terrorism, to protect American workers from unfair labor competition, and to relieve pressure on public services by strengthening border security and stabilizing immigration into the United States.”

Mr. Reid also made sure that the basis of birthright citizenship, the foundation of the 14th Amendment, was “clarified” - ending citizenship for babies of immigrants who were in the United States illegally.

The bill also featured a broad array of tough-on-illegals provisions that would make Mr. Reid’s liberal Senate allies blanch. These included reforming asylum laws so illegal aliens could not use fraudulent asylum claims as a ticket to legal status, harsher penalties for not leaving the United States when ordered, and the addition of alien smuggling as a crime listed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

In support of his bill, Mr. Reid sounded like a common-sense Republican: “In response to increased terrorism and abuse of social programs by aliens, [I] today introduced the first and only comprehensive immigration reform bill in Congress. Currently, an alien living illegally in the United States often pays no taxes but receives unemployment, welfare, free medical care, and other federal benefits. Recent terrorist acts, including the World Trade Center bombing, have underscored the need to keep violent criminals out of the country.”

Things changed by 2006, though. According to reports, the senator’s spokesman said Mr. Reid changed his mind on the immigration issue after “several meetings in the community with immigrants and a conversation with his wife.”

Apparently, it took 47 years of marriage and two decades in federal office for the senator to speak with his wife and immigrants in his community.

Kerry Picket blogs for The Washington Times at the Watercooler blog (washingtontimes.com/opinion).