True immigration reformers breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday, when House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters that the House had “no intention” of going to conference with the Senate amnesty bill, S.744. (CBS News, Nov. 13, 2013)
Those who had opposed the Senate bill knew it was a horrible bill. It would have granted amnesty to the entire illegal alien population and –as if that weren’t enough — doubled legal immigration in the course of a decade (or tripled it, if you count the amnestied aliens).
We also knew that if the House proceeded with its step-by-step approach, any smaller bills passed could be cobbled together and sent to conference committee with the Senate bill. Indeed, that’s what amnesty advocates and pro-amnesty Senators have long been pushing. When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Gang of Eight Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) both say the goal is to get to conference, there was no mistaking that a conference committee would be the worst thing possible for immigration reform.
Finally, we knew that if the House went to conference with the Senate amnesty bill, the only thing it would bring back to the House would be nearly identical to the Senate amnesty bill. Illegal alien advocates have made it clear that they would not settle for anything less than a comprehensive amnesty. A couple of months ago, when House Republicans floated the idea of moving some kind of DREAM Act, the White House quickly criticized legislation that granted amnesty to children, but allowed the parents to be deported.
For months, our activists and supporters have been reminding their representatives of all of these reasons to reject the Senate amnesty bill. They understood what a conference committee was and how dangerous those negotiations with the Senate would be. By calling, emailing, and visiting their members, they demanded that immigration policy serve the needs of Americans first. And, as time passed and House Republicans really began to understand how bad the Senate amnesty bill was, they began to see the light. They knew it the right thing to do was to take their time.
Ironically, it seems that two back-to-back events finally helped persuade Republican Leadership that we were right. First, the shutdown and debt ceiling debate this fall gave House Republicans a taste of what it would be like to negotiate with the Senate on immigration. Second, the debacle of the Obamacare rollout provided crystal clear proof that massive, special-interest-laden bills that only a handful of individuals have even read, and fewer who understand, inevitably lead to disaster.
So, where do True Immigration Reformers go from here? While the fight has changed — and certainly for the better — the fight is not over. We must now tackle two critical issues. First, Congress MUST reassert its authority over immigration policy and immigration enforcement in particular. There is no point in passing additional laws unless Congress is confident that the Obama Administration will enforce them. If Congress were to grill Administration officials about their failure to enforce immigration laws as they grilling officials over the Obamacare rollout, there is no doubt the results would be just as embarrassing.
Second, the Speaker has repeatedly said that he wants to move immigration legislation through the House this Congress. There are several bills out there, like the Gowdy bill, that would significantly improve immigration policy and the enforcement of our immigration laws. There are other possible bills, such as the DREAM Act, which may be re-named the KIDS Act, which would take immigration policy a step back. Our goal now is to help persuade House Leadership that it should only debate bills that prioritize the interests of Americans. That means no amnesties, and no bills that lead to mass increases in immigration or unfairly flood the labor markets.