It has been said that the U.S. Senate is where good ideas go to die. In the context of immigration reform, the opposite is true: this week the Senate passed a bundle of mostly bad ideas, “comprehensive” immigration reform. Attention is now focused on the House of Representatives, where hopefully this bundle of errors will receive the fate it should have received in the Senate.
On the merits, the Senate bill is a non-starter for House conservatives. The most odious provisions are those that provide immediate and irreversible legalization, a path to citizenship, and eventual federal welfare benefits without any guarantees of border enforcement that can’t be waived by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Most importantly: the Senate bill does not require an impassible fence be built across the most trafficked portions of the southern border. This leaves the Senate bill dead on arrival in the House, and rightly so. The 1986 immigration reform failed to install a fence and millions more came illegally. Failure to implement a fence now invites the same result.
The Senate bill is not all detritus however. The provisions mandating e-Verify, expanding visas for high skilled workers, the hiring of additional border patrol agents and installation of high tech anti-trafficking measures, such as drones, are meritorious. These can be the foundation of a security-first House bill.
However, House Republicans should be in no rush to pass any immigration reform bill. There is no public clamor for immigration reform from key 2014 constituencies, and Congress’ failure to act this summer will not exacerbate a problem that has been a generation in the making.
Moreover, Harry Reid is hoping members of Congress will get pressured by their constituents at town hall meetings during the August recess to pass the Senate bill, but that won’t happen. Given more time to inspect the Senate bill, Americans will likely sour on it, just as has happened with Obamacare.
Indeed, any GOP midterm worries are misplaced. Democrats haven’t done well in a midterm election since 2006, fewer Hispanics vote in midterm elections, and the raft of scandals besieging the White House should provide Republicans sufficient ammo to fight back against Democratic attacks.
So what specifically should the House do?
First, it should define “reform.” The word is thrown around in Washington so often that is has no meaning. House Republicans should define immigration reform to mean specific solutions to specific immigration-related problems.