Late on Dec. 16, the U.S. House or Representatives passed legislation billed as the border protection, anti-terrorism and illegal immigration control act, requiring employers to verify the legal status of each employee.
No strong-arm tactics were needed to produce the stunning 239-182 margin of victory - including the votes of 36 Democrats - and pass the measure sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., because members had heard from the grass roots.
More than 130 amendments to H.R. 4437 had been submitted to the Rules Committee by the deadline for amendments at 7 p.m. Dec. 13. Members of Congress are finally recognizing that immigration will be the hot-button issue of the next election, and they want to distance themselves from President George W. Bush's unpopular guest-worker-amnesty proposal.
The open-borders advocates realized the House will not acquiesce in Bush's imperious demand that guest-worker amnesty be part of any immigration bill. So their fallback was to insert sense-of-Congress language in the Sensenbrenner bill that would have no legal effect but would signal the House's willingness to deal with guest-worker amnesty if the Senate passes it.
Early on Dec. 14, word floated through the cloakroom that this language, offered by Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., was likely to be added to the manager's amendment: "It is the sense of Congress that a necessary part of securing the international land and maritime border of the United States entails the creation of a secure legal channel by which the foreign workers needed to keep the United States economy growing may enter and leave the country."
At 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 13, the 90-member House Immigration Reform Caucus agreed to defeat the rule for H.R. 4437 if language supporting guest-worker programs were added to the bill. Defeating the rule would effectively kill the bill.
On the afternoon of Dec. 15, the House manifested its new awareness of the public's demand for border control by passing the Hunter amendment by a vote of 260-159, which included yes votes from 49 Democrats. This so-called "fence amendment" mandates the construction of specific security fencing, including lights and cameras, along the U.S.-Mexico border for the purpose of gaining operational control of the border.
The bill orders 700 miles of fencing in sectors that have the highest number of immigrant deaths, drug smuggling and illegal border crossings. The bill also orders the Secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a study of the use of physical barriers along our border with Canada.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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