- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2007

Judging by what took place in the first hours of the Senate immigration debate last week, critics are deluding themselves if they expect lawmakers to improve the bill when debate resumes after the Memorial Day recess. Most of the organized political pressure on the immigration issue is coming from open-borders advocates intent on enabling more illegals to obtain amnesty and bring their relatives to the United States, and from Washington elites on the left and the right who think anyone who doesn’t share their permissive philosophy is backward and xenophobic. Unless the American people rise up en masse and tell their senators in no uncertain terms that they cannot accept amnesty, the Senate bill will easily pass and no one should be surprised if it passes with amendments making it even more harmful to taxpayers and detrimental to hometown safety and homeland security.

Two votes in particular that occurred on Thursday illustrate the problem. Sen. Norm Coleman a moderate Minnesota Republican who cannot possibly be termed “anti-immigrant” or a “bomb thrower” introduced an amendment aimed at closing the notorious “sanctuary city” loophole that cities and states are using to avoid compliance with federal immigration law. Section 642 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 was supposed to guarantee that local law-enforcement officials can communicate with with federal law-enforcement agencies regarding suspected immigration violations. But to get around federal immigration law, localities have instituted ordinances barring local law enforcement from even asking whether someone is lawfully in the United States. Mr. Coleman’s amendment would permit law-enforcement officers to ask about a person’s immigration status during routine investigations. “In a post 9-11 world, it is simply unacceptable for communities to ignore federal laws requiring them to share this type of information with federal authorities,” Mr. Coleman said.

As Mr. Coleman noted, the recent capture of six suspected terrorists, three of them illegals, in the plot to attack Fort Dix, N.J., illustrates the danger of continuing to permit local government to get away with issuing gag orders on local police. The “Fort Dix 6” suspects committed numerous traffic violations and had dozens of encounters with law enforcement, but it appears that no one inquired whether they were legally in the country. Authorities didn’t know about the six until an alert store clerk told the FBI about their jihadist videos.

With all the talk we’ve heard for close to six years from politicians on the right and left about the importance of being able to “connect the dots” in order to thwart terrorist attacks, Mr. Coleman’s amendment should have passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Instead, Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who lives in a September 10 fantasy world, delivered a long-winded speech asserting in essence that American law enforcement as we know it would collapse if local police cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Absurd as this argument was, Mr. Menendez and Sen. Edward Kennedy defeated Mr. Coleman’s amendment by a 49-48 vote, with eight Republicans Sens. Pete Domenici (New Mexico), Chuck Hagel (Nebraska), Dick Lugar (Indiana), Mel Martinez (Florida), Olympia Snowe (Maine); Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania), George Voinovich (Ohio) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) joining 41 Democrats in opposition.

The greatest show of strength by open-borders advocates during Senate debate came when Sens. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, and Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, offered an amendment striking amnesty from the bill. Messrs. DeMint and Vitter sensibly warned that the Senate bill repeats the mistake of the 1986 amnesty. But their amendment was defeated 66-29: Forty-three Democrats voted for legalization, compared to nine voting against it.

Disappointingly, twenty-five Republicans, among them prominent lawmakers like Sens. Jon Kyl and John Cornyn, were on the pro-legalization side compared to 20 Republicans who opposed it.

Right now, the open-borders side is on the offensive, while border-security proponents face an uphill battle in the Senate.

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