Paul  Weyrich

Washington for much of this year has been grappling with immigration issues. The President offered his proposal, which isn't much different than the status quo. Then the United States House of Representatives passed a bill which basically would do two things. First, it would call for securing our American borders. Second, it would make employers responsible for determining if a hire were an illegal resident. Then the Senate weighed in. With a bipartisan majority, led by Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D- MA), the Senate passed an absolutely dreadful bill. Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation denounced the measure, saying it would double or triple the present number of illegal immigrants. Heritage is seen as pro-immigration so the Rector intervention was all the more surprising. Some Senators and many of the House Members branded the Senate bill as "amnesty."

It appeared that the gap between the House and the Senate was so wide that not even Presidential arm-twisting could bring about a result. Into this political impasse has stepped the impressive, thoughtful and energetic Chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, Representative Mike Pence (R-IN). He has introduced a bill which possibly could serve as a compromise in trying to resolve the immigration issue. There are two aspects to this effort, the politics and the policy. First, regarding the politics, it is likely there will be no bill this year. The special election in California which brought Brian Bilbray (R-CA) back to the House has caused more Members to dig in their heels for the House position. Bilbray was trailing Democrat Francene Busby for weeks until a few days before the election when she was taped at a largely Mexican rally as telling an illegal alien that he didn't need papers to vote. Bilbray pounded away on the immigration issue. His views are not unlike those of Representative Thomas G. Tancredo (R-CO), who is the most hard-line Member of the House on immigration. House Members tell me that they can live with no bill on immigration going into the 2006 elections but they can't live if seen as compromising with the Senate bill. So politically, any action on the Pence bill will likely come in the 110th Congress, if Republicans continue to control the House.

As to policy the Pence bill would do four things. First, it would secure the border. Pence believes, as do many of his House colleagues, that this is a matter of national security. He wants that done first and in that sense he is close to the House position as indicated in its bill.

Second, he would deny amnesty to anyone who has come to the United States illegally. That is in direct contradiction to the Senate bill which would, in effect, provide amnesty for current and perhaps future illegals.


Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
 
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