It's understandable that the White House and its Senate negotiating partners want to rush through the compromise immigration bill they agreed to Thursday. Supporters acknowledge that the delicately balanced legislation could collapse if a single destructive amendment is attached to it. Its sponsors admit they want to minimize the political debate. "We all know this issue can be caught up in extracurricular politics unless we move forward as quickly as possible," says Sen. John McCain , a key architect of the bill.
But this is no way to debate the most sweeping change to our nation's immigration laws in two decades — especially since the last comprehensive attempt, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, failed so spectacularly. The new bill is set to pass with much less analysis in the Senate than the 1986 law, known as Simpson-Mazzoli, had. Senators did not even receive the bill draft until midnight Saturday. After a test vote scheduled for today, Majority Leader Harry Reid is planning a final vote on the bill this Thursday, only one week after the compromise was struck. Shouldn't senators have time to actually read the bill they're being asked to vote on?
Even a key supporter of the bill, Sen. Jon Kyl or Arizona, admitted to radio host Hugh Hewitt that "we don't have to rush the bill through the Senate in a week. . . . Hopefully, the majority leader would allow it to carry over beyond the Memorial Day recess so we could complete it."
Let's hope a comprehensive bill passes this year. If not, it will be another two years before a new president will have another bite at the apple. I favor a comprehensive immigration bill that combines stepped-up border enforcement with a large guest-worker program and a method by which we can bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows of our society. I've written before about how President Eisenhower's Bracero guest-worker program reduced arrests of illegal aliens at the border from over a million in 1954 to only 45,000 by 1959. The number of arrests remained under 100,000 a year until 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson ended the program under pressure from labor unions.
Many immigration experts say they can't know if they support the current compromise until they've absorbed the entire 1,000 page bill. They are concerned that Mr. Reid seems determined to bypass normal committee review and hearings and rush the bill to the floor. "That's like trying to eat an eight-course meal on a 15-minute lunch break," said former senator Fred Thompson on ABC Radio Friday.
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