What is it again, when one does the same thing over and over while expecting a different result?
That common definition of insanity comes to mind when observing the current debate about the latest attempt at immigration “reform.” A product of the “Gang of Eight,” this proposal is an echo, not a choice. And like most gang-related endeavors, it bodes ill for both well-being and purse.
Arguments for the bill are Protean. One, aimed at those who think with their hearts goes “the [current] system violates the basic principle of American democracy, the principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit … it has been un-American in the highest sense ...” Oh, wait … That was President Lyndon Johnson, arguing for the Immigration Act of 1965, which promised, among other things, to make “family reunification” the heart of our immigration policy, while limiting immigration from Mexico for the first time. As a sweetener, Senator Edward Kennedy, one of the bill’s authors, promised that “... our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually ... the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset ...” Which is certainly amusing.
The late senator’s predictions notwithstanding, the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 did exactly as its opponents predicted: by emphasizing families, it created the “anchor baby” phenomenon. Subsequent — and separate — regulations governing what hospitals could ask about immigration status made neonatal and childbirth services a growth industry in several regions along our southern border.
By 1986, the number of illegal residents in the U.S. had grown far beyond what it was in 1965, so the federal government was moved to once again “reform a broken immigration system” supposedly, once and for all. The result was the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, sometimes known as “Simpson-Mazzoli,” after the two principal sponsors.
IRCA offered a quid pro quo: much tighter border security and penalties against those employing illegal residents, in return for a “path to citizenship.” The latter, we were assured, was no picnic. It involved learning English, paying a fine, and was not available to anyone convicted of a crime. As President Reagan said on signing the bill, “in the past 35 years our nation has been increasingly affected by illegal immigration. This legislation takes a major step toward meeting this challenge to our sovereignty. At the same time, it preserves and enhances the Nation’s heritage of legal immigration.” During the debate over the bill, we were assured that “No alien would qualify for lawful temporary or permanent residence status if the applicant had failed to demonstrate … sufficient means without public cash assistance for the support of the alien and his likely dependents.” Does this sound familiar?
Implementation of IRCA immediately created a cottage industry of fraudulent documents. And since the political will existed neither to implement tighter border security nor to pursue employment sanctions, illegal immigration continued to flourish.
Minor appearances in this ongoing farce include the “Real ID” act of 2005, whose author, Congressman James Sensenbrenner, said was necessary because “you have to prove your identity and legal presence in the United States when you apply for or renew a driver’s license.” In Colorado and across the country, Democrats are still laughing.
Then there’s the “Secure Fence Act” of 2006 designed to clear the legal underbrush from the path of border fence construction. This act was nullified by Barack Obama in 2010, since federal courts had a nasty habit of finding for the government in cases brought to halt border fence construction.
Which brings us to the mis-named “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” touted by its sponsors as a cure for all the ills and oversights of the past 48 years. There’s the same old “fairness,” the tired “path to citizenship,” the shopworn “solution to illegal immigration,” the empty promises of “enhanced border security.”
It’s all hogwash. The Democrats lust for legalization, because they see in legions of newly-minted citizens the power to make their giveaway state permanent. Republicans rush to embrace the bill out of fear that they will be shunned by those who wouldn’t support their principles on a bet. Both parties lie about border security, a part of the prospective law already redlined for death by neglect. As an inoculation against stampede on the issue, one could do worse than remember the words of former Senator Byron Dorgan: “I was here in congress in 1986. I heard all the promises of the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. None of them were true, and three million people got amnesty. There was no border security to speak of, no employer sanctions to speak of, and no enforcement.”
To borrow a phrase, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column for the Summit Daily News.