- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2008


For months, leading Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chief Rahm Emanuel have tried to talk tough on illegal immigration. Mr. Emanuel told The Washington Post last year that immigration is “the third rail of American politics,” adding that “anyone who doesn’t realize that isn’t with the American people,” earning himself angry denunciations from the far-left fringe. Last month, Mrs. Pelosi joined House Minority Leader John Boehner in announcing that the House-passed economic stimulus bill would “not allow any taxpayer funds to be distributed to illegals.” The Democratic leadership’s efforts to sound tough on illegal immigration have created serious friction with some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which believes the Democratic leadership is too timid about pushing for amnesty legislation.

If senior Democrats were really serious about a get-tough approach toward illegal immigration, we would be urging the Republican minority to reach across the aisle and work with the Democratic leadership to come up with a genuine bipartisan solution. But unfortunately, the Democrats are putting together an elaborate con job: using tough-sounding rhetoric while working behind the scenes with open-borders advocates in the business community to win support from from firms that have become very dependent on cheap foreign labor. The goal of these Democrats — and possibly the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well — is to defeat a bipartisan bill that takes a no-amnesty, enforcement-oriented approach to illegal immigration. Specifically, they are very worried about the fact that a growing number of moderate and conservative Republicans and Democrats (and even a few liberals) are cosponsoring the Secure America through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act, H.R. 4088, introduced by Rep. Heath Shuler, North Carolina Democrat.

The SAVE Act is an omnibus bill that would strengthen border security and require that employers verify that their workers are legally present in the United States. Forty-seven Democrats and 89 Republicans are cosponsoring the Shuler bill, which is currently bottled up in the House Judiciary Committee, where liberals like Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat and chairwoman of the Immigration Subcommittee, will work to ensure that it stays there. Cosponsors range from conservative Republicans like Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colorado); Rep. Brian Bilbray (California), chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus; and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (California) to moderate and liberal Democrats like Rep. Mark Udall of Colorado, Reps. Sanford Bishop of Georgia and Artur Davis of Alabama (both members of the Congressional Black Caucus); and Rep. Ciro Rodriguez of Texas, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Right now, Republican supporters of H.R. 4088 are circulating a discharge petition in an effort to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. They need 218 members’ signatures, meaning that at least 20 Democrats would have to take the supreme act of rebellion: directly defying Mrs. Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and the rest of the party leadership to bring to a vote legislation that the leadership wants no part of. Senior Democrats, worried that they may not be able to keep the bill tied up in committee, have come up with a Plan B — muddling the issue by attaching a killer amendment to the Shuler bill, which would come in the form of an amendment proposed by Rep. Joe Baca, California Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

The Baca Amendment would give illegal aliens who pass a background check a “five-year temporary worker permit” that expires on Dec. 31, 2012. It would also provide employers who hired illegal aliens “safe harbor” (apparently some measure of immunity from prosecution) for past hiring of illegal aliens. If Mr. Shuler gets enough signatures to force his bill to the floor to be debated, Democrats hope to neuter it by attaching the Baca Amendment. If Mr. Baca’s proposal were to become law, open-borders advocates could come back later and pass legislation putting these illegals on a path to citizenship. While not endorsing the Baca Amendment, a senior official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told Congressional Quarterly that he believed there was “some kind of deal in the works.”

Fortunately, not everyone in the business community is pushing for amnesty. The National Federation of Independent Business, a leading group representing small businesses, has endorsed Mr. Shuler’s bill as drafted. “I can’t believe the leadership would be able to get any benefit from that,” Mr. Bilbray says of Mrs. Pelosi’s efforts to derail the SAVE Act with amnesty legislation. “What happened last summer,” with the defeat of the Senate amnesty bill, “should be a warning,” he told The Washington Times.

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