Carol highlighted the Attorney General's quote earlier, but I want to tackle it from a slightly different angle. I've been largely persuaded by Allahpundit's analysis that the White House is not interested in sabotaging immigration reform. But some critics have contended that President Obama would prefer an acrimonious battle, culminating in a bitter partisan stalemate. Obama could point to his "good faith" efforts and take credit for trying, then proceed to drive an even bigger wedge between Republicans and Hispanic voters. Oh, and he'd burnish his "obstructionist" argument heading into 2014, a cycle in which he desperately hopes to regain the House in order to fend off lame duck status. (Pro tip: Pining for another Pelosi Speakership may not be the best idea). For reasons that AP has enumerated, I don't fall into this camp -- but I'm beginning to wonder. Holder's comments are the political equivalent of waving a red flag in front of a bull, and they just so happen to come smack dab in the middle of Marco Rubio et al's efforts to forge a bipartisan consensus. Even for those of us who are open to some kind of reform package, this comment is beyond maddening, particularly considering that it emanates from the nation's top law enforcement official:
"Creating a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country is essential. The way we treat our friends and neighbors who are undocumented – by creating a mechanism for them to earn citizenship and move out of the shadows – transcends the issue of immigration status. This is a matter of civil and human rights. It is about who we are as a nation. And it goes to the core of our treasured American principle of equal opportunity."
Pete Wehner, a reform supporter, cannot abide Holder's "reckless assertion:"
Attorney General Holder’s claim is more than simply silly; it is also pernicious. It attempts to frame this debate not on the merits of granting a pathway to citizenship for those who have violated our laws; it’s an effort to frame it as a conflict between those who support (good people) and those who oppose (bad people) basic human rights. This is an effort, in other words, to demonize those with whom one disagrees, and therefore creates yet more polarization and anger and self-righteousness in a debate that probably needs less of it. What Holder said also reveals a fairly common mindset of those on the left, which is to characterize whatever position they embrace not simply as correct but as a basic civil right. In other words, as something fundamental and teleological, as a right that is ours based on our nature as human beings. The idea that a person who violates American sovereignty by illegally crossing our borders should be given a pathway to citizenship as a matter of civil and human rights is therefore indefensible, an invention. The attorney general is employing a very serious concept in a reckless way. And it empties the term of meaning, just as promiscuously accusing those who oppose the policies of President Obama of racism empties that charge of meaning. It really ought to stop, since human rights violations and racism really do exist.
No one who comes to this country illegally has a "right" to stay here. If -- if -- we end up crafting a political path to legalization and perhaps citizenship, its beneficiaries would be recipients of a profoundly generous gift, not beleaguered victims who've finally gained the civil or human rights to which they've been entitled all along. Holder's insidious remark risks poisoning the well for many would-be supporters of reform. Question: Is that by design, or is he so steeped in, and surrounded by, leftism that he literally cannot comprehend the ramifications of his words? Either explanation is plausible in my book. I'll leave you with the latest reporting from the indispensable Byron York. The 'Gang of Eight' bill is riddled with loopholes:
The green card process would take additional years, meaning the road to full citizenship could take as long as 15, or even 18, years. Unless it doesn’t. A little-noticed exception in the Gang of Eight bill provides a fast track for many — possibly very many — currently illegal immigrants. Under a special provision for immigrants who have labored at least part-time in agriculture, that fast track could mean permanent residency in the U.S., and then citizenship, in half the time Rubio said. And not just for the immigrants themselves — their spouses and children, too. A second provision in the legislation creates another fast track for illegal immigrants who came to the United States before they were 16 — the so-called Dreamers. The concept suggests youth, but the bill has no age limit for such immigrants — or their spouses and children — and despite claims that they must go to college or serve in the military to be eligible, there is an exception to that requirement as well.
So "DREAM kids" would include people who were (or claim to have been) brought here as young children decades ago. Also, remember that one year window to apply for provisional legal status about which I reported last week? Turns out that's a flexible standard, too:
If an illegal immigrant is apprehended by authorities after the passage of the bill, and appears to qualify for blue card status, the law requires the Department of Homeland Security to give him a “reasonable opportunity” to apply for blue card status. He cannot be deported while his application is under review. Even if he is in removal proceedings, the bill says, the Secretary of Homeland Security is required to allow him to apply for blue card status, and immigration authorities are required to “terminate [removal] proceedings without prejudice.” The bill’s supporters point out that the Gang of Eight would limit the period of time in which illegal immigrants can apply for a blue card. That’s true; the bill specifies that applications have to be filed in the year after the last of the rules enforcing the new immigration law have gone into effect. But the bill also gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretion to extend that period by another year and a half if she or he determines that “additional time is required” for the applications. The extension can also be granted for any other “good cause.”
Let's see if I understand this correctly: If an illegal immigrant hasn't voluntarily emerged "from the shadows" to seek legal status on his own, US officials would still be required to inform him of his right to apply for a blue card if and when he happens to be apprehended in an unrelated incident? It seems to me that if someone (a) hasn't proactively come forward already, for whatever reason -- wrongdoing? ignorance? -- and (b) has been apprehended for another reason, perhaps this individual shouldn't be a prime candidate for legal residence at all. Furthermore, that 365-day limited window could stretch to two-and-a-half years, on the say-so of the DHS Secretary. How much do you want to bet that Janet Napolitano would decide that "additional time is required"? After all, the implementation of Kafkaesque Big Government programs are known for going seamlessly, right? Sen. Rubio downplayed my concerns about vesting Napolitano with more discretionary power during our recent interview. She'll be gone sooner or later, was the gist of his argument. It's a fair point to some extent, but three years is a long time; Napolitano's fingerprints and influence would be all over the crucial early stages of implementing the law. For that reason alone, I'm comforted by the House Judiciary Committee's slow, deliberative approach to immigration reform. The only reason to rush this process is to pass a bill before we know what's in it.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography
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