Michael  Franc

The role the Senate plays in our legislative process was best described by George Washington. “We pour legislation into the senatorial saucer,” he told a skeptical Thomas Jefferson, “to cool it.”

Indeed, after two weeks of debate on the comprehensive immigration reform bill, a growing number of Americans have cooled on this legislative endeavor. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that support for the “grand bargain” has slipped three points (to 23%) while opposition has ticked up to 50%. Other polls have found that the more Americans know about it, the less likely they are to support it.

Conservative senators took to the Senate floor to correct various shortcomings in the massive bill. In most cases, they failed, sometimes by lopsided margins. But, even in defeat, they forced the bipartisan coalition of senators behind the agreement to confront some “inconvenient truths” about their bargain. Here’s a partial list:

Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.) was alarmed that the “grand bargain” would grant amnesty, green cards, and ultimately citizenship to gang members, sex offenders, alien smugglers who use firearms, repeat drunken drivers, and “absconders” (aliens who flout court orders to leave the U.S.). He tried to deny citizenship to these “fugitive aliens” (law enforcement officials estimate 636,000 are in the U.S.). His amendment failed, thanks to the political cover provided by an alternative amendment from Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). Though Kennedy’s amendment would bar future waves of criminal aliens from gaining legal status, it would do nothing to bring those already in the U.S. to justice. Lesson: The “grand bargain” would grant citizenship to 636,000 aliens who have thumbed their nose at our criminal-justice system.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R.-Minn.) believes federal, state or local officials should be allowed to question individuals about their immigration status if the officials believe they are here illegally. He lost by a single vote -- 48 to 49. Lesson: The “grand bargain” allows cities to shield criminal aliens from prosecution by granting them “sanctuary.”

Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) tried to eliminate one of the preferences the legislation gives to illegal agricultural workers. “What many of us may not know,” Allard said, “is the enormous advantage the bill’s point system gives to people who have violated our immigration laws relative to people who are seeking to enter this country legally.”


Michael Franc

A long-time veteran of Washington policymaking, Mike Franc oversees Heritage's outreach to members of the U.S. House and Senate and their staffs.

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