Amnesty in Search of Voters
As the debate over immigration reform drones on, the framework of so-called comprehensive reform is clear. Amnesty for illegals living in the United States is a given; the motive of both Democrats and Republicans is the capture of millions of new voters.
Both the Gang of Eight scheme and the president’s plan would grant probationary legal status for illegals that come forward and meet certain requirements. These could include a criminal background check, payment of back taxes and a fine, and proficiency in English. The reward would be a work permit, a Social Security card, and the right to leave the United States and return legally.
Then, an 8 to 10 year process would begin that would lead to a green card and eventually the right to apply for full citizenship. This is the Holy Grail of Democrats and Republicans alike. Both parties want to get the ball rolling as they court the estimated 11 million plus illegals now living in the United States. The real target is the coveted Hispanic vote.
Democrats already have the upper hand in the immigration reform/voter recruitment face-off with the Republicans. Ever since the landmark 1986 immigration reform legislation, Democrats have grabbed the Hispanic vote in every presidential election. In November, President Obama won 71 per cent of the Hispanic vote.
No wonder the Democrats are eager to pass immigration reform. The president wants to make up for his failure to deliver reform in his first term. He showed his anxiety over the Hispanic vote last summer when he unilaterally declared his own Dream Act. Now he wants part of his political legacy to be the president who brought millions of new voters into the Democratic Party.
Much has been made of the need to secure the US/Mexican border before the march to citizenship can begin. This is a false promise that will never be fulfilled. No matter. The Obama administration claims the border has never been more secure.
Nevertheless, gaping holes remain in the extensive expanse of the southern border. At the same time, the administration remains at war with agents of the U.S. border patrol who are now prohibited from detaining all but the most dangerous criminals who have entered the United States illegally.
This is the real obstacle to passage of immigration reform. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and others insist that certifiable border security is a prerequisite to the entire reform effort. The president talks a good game on border security but is vague on any such “trigger” to further reform.
Count on Obama to continue the emotional drumbeat towards immigration reform. There will be much talk about young illegals brought to the United States as children and families torn apart by deportation. He will state repeatedly that immigration reform is long overdue and is the right thing to do. Opponents will be demonized.
The Gang of Eight is a fragile concoction in the Senate. Rubio and his Republican colleagues could bolt if Democrats such as Senators Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin insist on provisions that reflect Obama’s plan. Then the Republican majority in the House will have its own proposals that will hardly be pleasing to the White House.
Eventually the most important players of all – – the voters – – will chime in as they did five years ago when immigration reform failed. The sticking point then and now will remain amnesty. If voters see immigration reform as the largest presidential pardon in history, it will fail.