Over Amnesty Looms on Capitol Hill
to growing public demands, the House of Representatives late
last month passed legislation ostensibly designed to stem
the flow of illegal immigration, but most of its provisions
face an uncertain future, thanks to powerful commercial and
left-wing pressure on the Senate and the White House.
The bill contains significant improvements in current immigration
policy and enforcement, many of which were backed by Americans
for Immigration Control and allied groups, including an end
to the practice of letting non-Mexican illegal aliens go free
when apprehended at the border, a practice derided by rank-and-file
Border Patrol agents as "catch and release."
The bill eliminates the notorious visa lottery program that
admits foreign populations at random. It also makes drunken
driving a deportable offense, and authorizes construction
of border fencing in parts of California, Texas, New Mexico
In a major tightening of current loose policy, the bill would
prohibit the attorney general from providing grant money to
any federal, state, and local government agency or entity
that provides sanctuary to illegal aliens.
The GOP leadership, worried that the bill's provisions will
frighten away corporate support from the party, refused to
allow a vote on a widely popular amendment to deny automatic
citizenship to babies born on U.S. soil to illegal aliens.
Known as "anchor babies," the automatic citizenship
granted them usually means that the illegal parents will not
be deported. As result, the U.S. is often the destination
of choice for many pregnant Mexican women.
"It's an incredible magnet for illegal immigration,"
said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-CO.
Border area hospitals report alarmingly high births to illegals.
At just one hospital, Fort Worth's John Peter Smith Hospital
in Texas, more than 73 percent of 5,775 deliveries in 2005
were the children of illegal aliens, said hospital spokeswoman
Officials at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas were quoted
in the Dallas Morning News saying that about 80 percent of
some 16,000 women who gave birth there qualified for taxpayer-supported
Medicaid funding for illegal aliens.
The amendment to deny automatic citizenship was sponsored
by Rep. Nathan Deal, R-GA, and had at least 80 cosponsors
from 26 states, but was not brought up for a vote.
One major provision that could easily deter the hiring of
illegal aliens was softened considerably, giving employers
of illegals more time to evade the law. It would have required
employers to check a national database to verify the Social
Security numbers of prospective employees - thus preventing
the use of fraudulent and stolen Social Security numbers.
The bill passed by the House delays implementation of the
national computer check for six years.
The White House issued a statement claiming to support the
bill, but added that it remained "committed to comprehensive
immigration reform, including a temporary worker program..."
President George Bush had recently visited the southwest U.S.
to sell his guestworker/amnesty plan in a series of public
appearances. Under his proposal, penalties for illegal entry
would be waived and illegal aliens could apply for a three-year
"guest worker" status and could reapply once.
The Bush proposal and several other similar guestworker/amnesty
bills are slated for consideration by the Senate in February.
GOP strategists say they hope the Senate will adopt some form
the guestworker/amnesty plan, and then merge it with it the
House border security bill in a conference committee. That
committee, which meets in secret, can then modify or soften
the border security provisions just passed before sending
the bill out for final passage. The House, which the White
House fears will not pass a guestworker/amnesty plan alone,
will then have to vote up-or-down on the entire package, which
will likely contain at least some remaining border security
improvements to lure House votes.
"There is widespread expectation that that is how it's
going to play out," said Tamar Jacoby, a newconservative
political theoretician who first developed the strategy of
trying to sell the president's amnesty plan to the public
as a border security issue.
Rep. Tancredo, head of the restrictionist 92-member Immigration
Reform Caucus in the House, said the strategy is designed
to get around him and his allied amnesty opponents.
"They're doing it this way because they know in the House
they'll run into a buzz saw and maybe my name's on it,"
Immigration control lobbyists say they will fight against
passage of any immigration bill that contains mass amnesty.
"Border security cannot work as long as there is a mass
amnesty for illegals. That's the message we're taking to Congress.
Americans have the right to safe and secure borders and an
end to illegal immigration."