EDITORIAL: Amnesty, or else

Immigration advocates lay down unreasonable demands

Red lines aren’t limited to the Syrian chemical arms sites. Illegal immigrants and others pushing for amnesty are laying down vivid red markers of their own, telling congressional Democrats that under no circumstances should they allow the enforcement-only Safe Act to become law. Seven protesters were arrested when they chained themselves to the White House fence to emphasize the point on Wednesday.

The Safe Act is a Republican House bill that grants states the authority to enact their own immigration laws and gives local police the authority to enforce them. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina drew up with the measure intended to bring out-of-control borders under control. The bill cleared the House Judiciary Committee in mid-June on a party-line vote.

The amnesty crowd fears the bill will be brought to the House floor for a vote in October or November. “We want to make it clear to Democrats and pro-reform Republicans,” Frank Sharry, head of the open-borders group America’s Voice, told the National Journal Daily, “that the Safe Act is not an acceptable trade-off for a path to citizenship.” A coalition of left-wing amnesty groups known as Cambio came out in opposition to Mr. Gowdy’s common-sense measure as well.

Amnesty advocates took a hit this week when Mr. Obama ruled out as “not an option” using executive orders to halt deportations for most of the estimated 11 million aspiring immigrants in the country illegally, as they had urged. In an interview Tuesday on the Spanish-language Telemundo network, the president said for him to do that “would be ignoring the law in a way that would be very difficult to defend legally.” His change of heart is unexpected, in view of his past comments and decisions, some of them puzzling and some of them contradictory, but it’s nevertheless welcome.

The Safe Act has the backing of House Speaker John A. Boehner, who told sheriffs in his Ohio district during the August recess that he stands “in unequivocal opposition to the massive, Obamacare-style immigration legislation passed recently by the United States Senate.” We hope he means it.

Amnesty advocates will get their way only if immigration reform comes in a giant, take-it-or-leave-it legislative package. The House is right to promote a bite-sized approach to reform, but even so, it may not matter. Amid the contentious partisan battles over a continuing resolution, the debt limit, the defunding of Obamacare and the possibility of a government shutdown, it’s not clear that Congress will have time to turn to either the Safe Act or any of the three other issue-specific immigration-related bills cleared by the House Judiciary Committee before adjournment. It’s not likely Congress will step over anyone’s immigration red line.

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