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Prediction: No immigration legislation this year
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The immmigration debate becomes more and more interesting.

Mickey Kaus
quotes last month's "Conventional Wisdom" from Fred Barnes in a Weekly Standard article and asks how wrong one could be. From Barnes:
THE IMMIGRATION ISSUE HAS FLIPPED in President Bush's favor. The public now firmly supports toughened border enforcement plus—and this is a big plus for the president—a system for letting illegal immigrants already in America earn citizenship. ... [snip] ... The ones with the politically untenable position are Democrats who want an immigration issue (but not actual legislation) to use against Republicans in November, and Republicans who want merely to increase border security.

The upshot is that an immigration bill appears likely (but not certain) to pass when Congress returns from its Easter recess on April 24—and probably in a "comprehensive" form congenial to Bush and Republican congressional leaders. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert have indicated they back this approach, not a bill simply calling for stronger border security.

The turning point came in March ...
Kaus then quotes a WaPo article from Sunday:
Hastert? Here's the latest WaPo report from Earth:


Republican House members facing the toughest races this fall are overwhelmingly opposed to any deal that provides illegal immigrants a path to citizenship — an election-year dynamic that significantly dims the prospects that President Bush will win the immigration compromise he is seeking, according to Republican lawmakers and leadership aides.

The opposition spreads across the geographical and ideological boundaries that often divide House Republicans ... [snip]

Despite some national polls showing strong support for a comprehensive solution of the sort favored by Bush, nearly every GOP lawmaker interviewed for this article said the House plan to secure the borders and enforce existing immigration laws is unquestionably the safer political stand in his or her district. Many Democrats from vulnerable districts say the same thing, although the Democratic Caucus as a whole is more sympathetic to a Senate-style compromise.
It all devolves into what I was talking about below ... shortsighted politicians aimed at political victory. So why, now, are we in a process which, like many other, has no real room for compromise? Because all politics is local, and believe me, each member knows exactly what will or won't fly in his own district.

And USA Today shows us why the CW, as articulated by Barnes, has fallen prey to the politics of incumbent reelection:
Americans hold strong and conflicting views about immigration that underscore the difficulties Congress will face in reaching a final legislative deal on the issue, an analysis of USA TODAY polling data shows.

The public splits into separate camps over whether illegal immigrants should be able to work toward citizenship, whether they help or hurt the economy — even whether immigration is an urgent problem that must be addressed.
Per the USA Today poll, those camps can be broadly characterized as hard-liners, unconcerned, ambivalent and welcoming.

They define them thusly:
• The hard-liners. "The most urgently concerned and the least sympathetic to illegal immigrants. Think immigrants' removal would help the economy. The only group with majority support for a fence."

• The unconcerned. "Not at all concerned about the issue. Generally sympathetic to illegal immigrants. Think their removal would hurt the economy."

• The ambivalent. "Support letting illegal immigrants stay and work toward citizenship but also the most likely to say their removal would help the economy."

• The welcoming. "The most sympathetic of any group toward illegal immigrants and the most likely to believe their removal would hurt the economy. The only group that thinks dealing with illegal immigrants already here should take priority over border security."
But here's the interesting part. Each breaks down like this:

Hardliners: 25% of Americans, 60% male, 11% from immigrant families, 41% Bush approval rating. The most conservative group, with the highest Bush approval; 51% are Republicans.

Unconcerned: 23% of Americans, 50% male, 13% from immigrant families, 20% Bush approval rating. The most bipartisan group ?ss 47% Democratic, 40% Republican ?ss with a mix of ideologies.

Ambivalent: 27% of Americans, 58% female, 15% from immigrant families, 33% Bush approval rating. The most bipartisan group: 47% Democratic, 40% Republicans with a mix of ideologies.

Welcoming: 27% of American, 59% female, 21% from immigrant families, 28% Bush approval rating. 54% are Democrats. More than three of four are conservatives or moderates.

Now it doesn't take a rocket scientist or even an overly astute political analyst to note how evenly these groups split, and which are more likely to be in Democratic districts and which would be most likely found in Republican districts.

So as Robert Suro says:
"You're talking about irreconcilable groups that represent substantial parts of the population," says Roberto Suro, director of the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center. "A compromise that 50% of the population can go for leaves half the public feeling unhappy, and very unhappy."
And what does that tell you, if you now understand that what is going on up there on the Hill, at least for now, isn't at all about immigration, but instead about reelection?

Yup, no law this year because it simply isn't in their best interest to put the best interest of Americans ahead of their chances for reelection no matter how they really feel about the situation.

All that being said ... I don't feel I fall into any of those categories because I break the issue down into security and immigration. I want better border security, but I have no problem with a streamlined guest worker program which can actually incentivize entering the US legally. I'm not a fan of amnesty at all, but I have no problem with allowing guest workers to apply for citizenship as well, just like any other immigrant.

And I think there are a lot more like me. But that's really not going to matter now, since election time is fast approaching and those are the 4 broad groups to which politicians are most likely to pander. And that means "no joy" to immigration legislation this year.

And who does that favor? Well Barnes got this part partially right:
The ones with the politically untenable position are Democrats who want an immigration issue (but not actual legislation) to use against Republicans in November.
In my estimation it is no longer an untenable situation, and it will be used against the Republicans in November, you can count on that.

UPDATE: Supporting my prediction is Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly:
Congressman Elton Gallegly predicted Thursday that the House would refuse to go along with an immigration reform bill approved in the Senate unless negotiators strip away a provision allowing immigrants who entered the country illegally to become U.S. citizens.

[...]

But Gallegly said he is confident that the House will not support any bill that includes amnesty.

"If the conference committee capitulates to the Senate, then this will never see the light of day," he said. "It won't get out of the House."

Passing legislation involves compromise, "but the art of compromise doesn't mean you capitulate on core issues," Gallegly said. "And amnesty is an issue that to many is non-negotiable. We have found that clearly that doesn't work."

"If they want a bill other than just happy talk," Gallegly said, "it's going to have to be a bill that has serious, assured methods of enforcement and no rewards for those that are here illegally."
Gallegly sits on the House Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims. He could be called on to serve on the conference committee that would be charged with forging a compromise.
 
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Hey, maybe this is a source of potential compromise between you and Jon on more than one issue. After all, each one of those illegal immigrants who come here increases his carbon-footprint 5-fold.

:-)
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
McQ

Mostly this analysis is pretty realistic.

Having said that, here’s my best attempt at knocking a hole in it:

Since the most concerned group are the hardliners, and since they’re disporportionately Republicans, why exactly won’t the Republicans who have a majority in both houses right now simply appease the section that corresponds most closely to their base, as well as the angriest section, and pass a border-enforcement only law, perhaps with a cleverly designed fluff or two that pretends to offer some sort of legal entry incentive but actually does nothing in pragmatic terms?

I mean, are the ambivalents and the unconcerned going to vote Republicans out of office simply because they screw over immigrants and fail to solve the problem as effectively as offering legal-migration incentives would? Most of the die-hards aren’t far enough along in their thinking to understand that legal incentives decrease illegal actions and certainly wouldn’t care.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Since the most concerned group are the hardliners, and since they’re disporportionately Republicans, why exactly won’t the Republicans who have a majority in both houses right now simply appease the section that corresponds most closely to their base, as well as the angriest section, and pass a border-enforcement only law, perhaps with a cleverly designed fluff or two that pretends to offer some sort of legal entry incentive but actually does nothing in pragmatic terms?
That’s essentially what they have done in the House. The Senate, to include many Republicans, have rejected that approach. That’s why it is going to a conference committee. Both have passed bills. Now they’re required to reconcile them.

they’re required to go through the process until they either reconcile their differences or fail to do so. Only after that has been done could the Senate readdress the issue with a harder line.

But since most Senators aren’t in a reelection pickle as are all the members of the House, the likelyhood of a hard-line bill emerging (given the bill they just passed) is pretty slim.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
I am sure the administration will put this time to good use by enforcing existing immigration laws and taking steps to reduce the backlog of legal immigrants waiting for their papers to be processed, in preparation for the increase of new immigrants needing to be processed. This would show the hard-liners that their concerns are exaggerated and make them more likely to accept more of the senate’s and administration’s proposals.

As Judy Tenuda(?) says, "It could happen!".
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Good analysis, McQ. I agree with it as well as your proposal for dealing with this. I am hardline on controlling the border but am in favor of a guest-worker program with an eventual path to citizenship for those already here.
 
Written By: AGJ
URL: http://averagegayjoe.blogspot.com
Good analysis, but let me fine tune it a little. First, why is immigration a hot topic at all right now (emphasis on right now)? My guess is that it has been brought front and center by Republicans who don’t want the fall elections to be about (1) Iraq; or (2) that many Americans, particularly in the white working class who vote primarily Republican, have concerns about their place in the economy. Immigration is a great topic changer. Second, having gotten the topic somewhat changed, they have to keep the issue alive through November. So is there really any incentive for the Republicans in the Senate to agree with the Republicans in the House? No. A failed conference lets the House Rs run on this issue in the fall, which is probably a winner in most of their districts.

The other thing to note about the four category breakdown is that easily half the people in those groups just don’t care about the issue in any meaningful way. The hardliners care a lot. Some of the welcomers care a lot. but most of the rest of us don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Which is what will make this a great issue for the Rs in the fall. It gives all those Rs who are lukewarm about the current Administration and much of Congress a reason to vote for their House member.
 
Written By: Steven Donegal
URL: http://
Immigration is a great topic changer.
Yeah, I mean why bother to look at other examples of un-assimilated groups of workers in other countries? What possible conclusions could we draw from such?
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
Ah yes, and well we remember those rightwing running dogs from ANSWER making sure to get the immigration issue right up in voter faces.
 
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://
The right wing organized the immigration day marches too. yep, yep, yep.
It’s all part of the VRWC.

I want them to leave and then they’re more than welcome to come back properly. I’ll even go along with large numbers of them doing it, so long as they’re buying into the ’dream’. Fill out the proper forms, sign on the dotted line, and promise they’re not anarchists (hey, my GF had to do that....an anarchist? for crumbly sake....I have his forms!)
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I don’t trust those breakdown numbers. I really don’t. I know I only have the anecdotal evidence of my experience with people, but they seem way off. In fact they seem way off from what was bandied about just a few months ago.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
I don’t trust those breakdown numbers. I really don’t. I know I only have the anecdotal evidence of my experience with people, but they seem way off. In fact they seem way off from what was bandied about just a few months ago.
That’s Kaus’s point. The CW from a few months ago isn’t the operative CW today. Those numbers seem to back his point (if we stipulate they’re accurate).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Hey,all. What is wrong with you people? We’re all make mistakes, right. Let those people take a chance and became Americans. There’re could be your kid friend in school.
 
Written By: Jessica. Hayes.
URL: http://
What a bunch of hogwash! I’ve seen poll numbers that shows that most of the American people are aginst amnesty, and, in fact against any increase in legal immigration. These poll numbers are highly, very highly suspect.
 
Written By: B. Samuel Davis
URL: http://
This President and most of the anti Americans in our government will not be happey till America looks more like Mexico- with all its crime and lawlessness. All they have to do is keep giveing them amnesty. All you will have to do is pay a corupt cop on the beat and forget about your day in court. Our senate has already set the ground work for that- with this amnesty and going aginst the American people.
 
Written By: Al Doten
URL: http://

 
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