Amnesty Eight

The Senate Tuesday voted to revive its misbegotten immigration bill, with the help of a handful of senators who claim to oppose amnesty but voted to proceed. They are now getting what they voted for, as H. L. Mencken put it, good and hard — with a 370-page “clay pigeon” amendment that is supposed to be digested and voted on by the end of the week. If the bill had been defeated yesterday, it would have been gone for at least two years and probably longer. Instead, it is a little closer to passage. But first it has to overcome another cloture vote scheduled for tomorrow. Again, the bill needs 60 votes to survive.

It got 64 votes yesterday. If all of the senators who voted against cloture stand firm, then, five senators would have to switch to no to defeat the bill on Thursday. Those votes are available from a bipartisan group of eight senators who have profound doubts about this bill. Our reporting suggests these senators are most likely to be persuaded to vote no on Thursday and derail amnesty. They are Sens. Kit Bond (R., Mo.), Sam Brownback (R., Kan.), Richard Burr (R., N.C.), Norm Coleman (R. Minn), John Ensign (R. Nev.), Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), Mark Pryor (D., Ark.) and Jim Webb (D., Va.).

The main provision they want to add, the “touchback,” is ridiculous. The original Grand Bargain stipulated that while illegal immigrants would get legal status almost immediately, they would have to leave the country to file their applications for green cards. The improved Grand Bargain — if Sens. Jon Kyl, Lindsey Graham, and Mel Martinez get their way — would also give illegal immigrants legal status, but would have them leave the country to file their applications for permanent Z visas. It is a meaningless distinction. Under either scenario, illegal aliens will have been made legal — that’s the amnesty — and then will have to make an entirely symbolic trek abroad for no purpose other than to give supporters of the Grand Bargain a tough-sounding sound bite during the next few days.

For years, supporters of amnesty have told us that deportation is impractical in contemporary America. But now the Grand Bargainers’ press releases teem with promises of deportation. Senator Graham’s office explains what would happen to heads of household who refuse to go along with the touchback requirement: “They will be deported along with their spouse and any non-American citizen children.” (Their American citizen children will presumably be sent to the nearest orphanage.) “Aliens who overstay their visa by more than 60 days will be apprehended, detained, and deported.” (Aliens who have overstayed for 59 days will generously be allowed exactly another 24 hours before their apprehension and deportation.) Given that we can’t find 600,000 absconders in the country now, these promises are obviously laughable. And if deportation is such a ready tool in our immigration arsenal it should be used now, to shrink the illegal population that is already here; it should not be coupled with an amnesty that will entice more illegals into the country.

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