The righteous cheers and applause for the latest amnesty schemes from the U.S. Senate and the White House recall the famous gathering of mice convened to deal with the cat. The cat was devouring the mice in alarming numbers.
"What we need," said a wizened little gray fellow who looked a lot like an overstuffed senator, "is a bell for the cat. We can put it on his collar along with his identification tag, though it beats me why anyone would want to help a cat find his way home. Then we can hear the tinkling of the bell when the cat's around. Then we can hide."
All the mice cheered and squeaked. "What a great idea," said one lean little mouse whose fur had gone gray around his ears. He looked something like John McCain. "Yes, yes," echoed a mouse with a certain Carolina accent. "Let's do it now."
The chairman, a fair-minded fellow, asked for further comment.
"No, no, no," a mouse shouted from the back row. "No more talk. No more delay." Another mouse, an editor from The Mall Street Journal just arrived from a two-hour business lunch at Chez Dumpster, with tiny crumbs still lodged in his whiskers, cried out: "Vote! Vote!"
And so they did, with only one dissenting vote. All the little mice screamed and cheered, mightily pleased with themselves. All but one, a plump, noisy mouse, a curmudgeon who looked like he might be a famous radio talker. He shook his head sadly. "You've got an interesting idea," he said, "but who will bell the cat?"
No one spoke up. Silence fell across the room. Finally, one by one, the mice drifted away, back to their holes in the wall under the kitchen sink. The cat, from his perch on the sofa, licked his lips, and smiled true to the instincts of his Cheshire grandfathers. Lunch would soon be served.
The trouble with the grand schemes of mice and men, meant to solve difficult problems in one great sweep, is that they almost never work. The political way to deal with the problem, much employed in certain Washington precincts, is to smother it with platitude, cliche, argle-bargle and caving in, disguised as artful compromise.
Eight senators, four Democrats and four Republicans, produced what was hailed as the path to comprehensive immigration reform, reform so "bipartisan" and full of compromise that President Obama, who has promised the cult a second term free of all compromise, flew off to Las Vegas to make a speech introducing his own reform that looked a lot like Senate reform.
"The agreement is a breakthrough," observed The Wall Street Journal, "because it includes compromises from both Republicans and Democrats that, at least in principle, address the main obstacles that have killed reform in the past. The most politically potent of those issues is what to do about the 11 million illegals currently in the United States."
"Politically potent," in fact, are the operative words in the "debate," such as it is. On one side of the debate are the reformers, compassionate and kind-hearted, and on the other are churls, bigots and nativists. The compassionate and kind-hearted want to keep the "cracking down" to a minimum, to preserve an abundance of cheap and easily abused labor. Mr. Obama and most of the Democrats are eager to preserve an abundance of voters drawn to welfare-state schemes. Some Republicans dream of tapping into that abundance of welfare-state voters.
The cruelest con in the schemes of Mr. Obama and the senators is the so-called "earned citizenship." This would give "undocumented immigrants" a way to "come out of the shadows" and "play by the rules" by passing a background check, learning English and "civics," paying their back taxes and penalties, and going to the back of the line to apply for citizenship. These are requirements almost no one could meet. The pointy-headed intellectuals (to use an apt phrase from the past) who dreamed up this scheme apparently never met anyone without tidy savings on which to draw "back taxes" and "penalties."
Most of the 11 million "undocumented immigrants," as we're supposed to call illegal aliens, are unlikely to have the thousands of dollars in back taxes and penalties. Offering such an amnesty only mocks their misery. The nation could use workable immigration reform, but this ain't it. Even a mouse can see that.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
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