Heritage Foundation: Real immigration reform, not rushed amnesty
May 1st, 2010
By Amanda J. Reinecker
One thing all sides can agree on is that Congress has been hard at work as it rushes to push through the left's radical agenda. President Obama himself admitted, "I've been working Congress pretty hard." That's exactly why he indicated on Wednesday that he would not try to push through amnesty for illegal immigrants this year.
But, oh, how quickly things change in Washington. Shortly after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D - NJ) introduced an immigration reform proposal -- the same in most respects as the rejected 2007 amnesty bill -- the Obama administration agreed to take "an active role" in sculpting the bill.
Conservatives in Congress are already castigating the attempt, and even some liberal lawmakers express doubts that legislation this large and controversial can be squeezed into the agenda during an election year. Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, the lone Republican working on comprehensive immigration reform, told the Washington Post, "if you bring up immigration in this climate, you'll divide the country further."
Illegal immigration does need to be addressed. But rushing through amnesty-based legislation disguised as "comprehensive" reform is not the way to go about it. The process must be gradual, must be based on fundamental principles, and must uphold the rule of law.
An appropriate solution would reject amnesty; apply appropriate security to the border; work as a partner with Mexico in helping them address economic and civil society reform and combating transnational crime; enforce workplace and immigration laws in partnership with state and local governments; pilot effective temporary worker programs that help employers get the employees they need to help grow the economy; and reform our visa, immigration and citizenship services.
The Reid-Schumer plan, he writes, does none of this. Ill-conceived proposals such as this, argues Heritage's Jena McNeil, make it "abundantly clear that the federal government refuses to make the right decisions in terms of enforcing the law and making the critical reforms necessary to drive down illegal immigration."
The Heritage Foundation has advocated state and local innovation when it comes to immigration enforcement. The recently-passed Arizona immigration law is a good example of how states can and should do more. Not only does the new law crack down on illegal immigration, but it is a healthy exercise of a state's Constitutional rights. The 10th Amendment preserves the power of the states to police their own jurisdictions.
As Heritage expert Matt Mayer explains, the Supreme Court upheld the 10th Amendment's federalist principles in Plyer v. Doe. The court held that, "despite the exclusive federal control of this Nation's borders, we cannot conclude that the States are without power to deter the influx of persons entering the United States against federal law, and whose numbers might have a discernible impact on traditional state concerns."
As Heritage has long argued, the United States was established on principles that support welcoming new residents through immigration and naturalization. Unfortunately, over time, immigration policy has become skewed as a debate between unfettered immigration and none at all.
Before settling on another disastrous and divisive proposal, lawmakers should take a breath and work toward a phased approach to immigration reform centered on border security, interior enforcement, and legal immigration processes.
Live webcast Tuesday with Rep. Eric Cantor
On Tuesday, May 4 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) will deliver a key note address on the importance of national security and keeping America safe. His speech to members of The Heritage Foundation's President's Club marks the start of Protect America Month, a month-long effort to highlight critical national defense issues. Heritage fellow and former Senator Jim Talent will deliver introductory remarks.
We hope you'll join us online for this live webcast on Tuesday.
> Other Heritage Work of Note
- Heritage's Lindsey Burke writes about important developments for school choice: "School choice is on the march in Illinois. And if the Rev. Senator James Meeks (D-15) has his way, 22,000 children stand to gain a lifeline out of failing public schools in the Prairie State. Senator Meeks introduced the school choice bill, which passed out of the Senate in March. Last Thursday, the Illinois House Executive Committee approved the measure, and the legislation now awaits action any day in the full House."
- It's no secret that President Obama has been irresolute on nearly every policy his administration has proposed. Interestingly, there is one area in which he is woefully consistent-- his apologetic, enemy-pacifying foreign policy. Obama has held countless summits and conferences, explains Heritage Vice President Kim Holmes, none of which have confronted the elephant in the room—Iran's nuclear weapons policy. "Mr. Obama thinks that backing our friends too energetically will provoke our enemies. If we show Iran and Russia that we really don't care that much about Israel or Poland, the thinking goes, maybe they'll back off."
- In a rare demonstration of candor by mainstream news outlets, reports surfaced earlier this week that the left's assault on Wall Street was a planned, calculated political move to make conservatives appear beholden to financial giants. The reality, however, could not be more different, writes Heritage's Mike Franc. "Politically, if not culturally, the denizens of Wall Street reside comfortably in the Democratic column." If they succeed in fooling the public, they had better hope that nobody decides to search Wall Street's 2008 Democratic campaign contributions.
- The controversial Puerto Rico Democracy Act, a contentious piece of legislation currently being debated on the Hill, puts U.S. statehood for Puerto rice in the realm of imminent possibility. But the bill uses unprecedented language and offers a voting process that clearly deviates from the process of statehood used for Alaska and Hawaii. Heritage's Brian Darling explains the problem: "This vote is rigged. The Puerto Rican people have rejected statehood on three occasions. The obvious question is: why would we expect this vote to be different?" His answer: "because the proponents of statehood have set up a false choice in the voting process."
- To the chagrin of big-government proponents everywhere, the vast majority of the U.S. Senate—85 members total—stood up against the institution value-addded tax on April 15. These lawmakers recognized that if a VAT were added, we would be one step closer to emulating the European economic model. If instated, the revenues from a VAT would help fund even more government spending, says Heritage's J.D. Foster. "Obama and friends hope to avoid reversing course on spending by convincing American taxpayers that when the debt crisis finally reaches the U.S. they will have to suck it up and go VAT."
- Join Heritage at the Family Research Council Action's Values Voter Summit 2010 in Washington, DC, from September 17-19. The event will feature prominent conservatives including Phyllis Schlafly, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), Bill Bennett, Star Parker, and many more. Heritage will hold a screening of Let Me Rise and host a panel discussion about the connections between social and economic conservatism. Register at ValuesVoterSummit.org.
> In other news
- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced California's full support for Obamacare on Thursday, saying that it's time "set politics aside." Of course, if we leave politics aside, Obamacare is still bad policy.
- A massive oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico has prompted the federal government to suspend all new offshore oil drilling. About 210,000 gallons of oil is spewing daily after an accident at an offshore deepwater well.
- Beijing has issued new rules limiting families in the city to one home. Banks have been blocked from issuing mortgages to anyone purchasing a second home.
Amanda Reinecker is a writer for MyHeritage.org—a website for members and supporters of The Heritage Foundation. Nathaniel Ward, the Editor of MyHeritage.org, and Eva Brates, a member of Heritage's Young Leaders Program, contributed to this report