Update (7/29, 2:35 P.M. EDT): Senate Democrats are now explicitly saying they will try to use Boehner’s border bill as a vehicle for broad, “Gang of 8” style amnesty, and immigration activists are urging them on. All the more reason to call ((202) 224-3121). A House vote on Boehner’s bill is expected Thursday.
Beware a Boehner Supertrap: Today (Tuesday 7/29) looks like Crunch Day for the House when it comes to finalizing a pre-August bill to deal with the surge of Central American immigrants coming across the Southern border. Aides to Speaker Boehner have been blowing a lot of smoke about how Republicans are desperate to pass something before they confront their constituents, and Politico has been inhaling. But clearly it won’t be easy for Boehner to put together a majority. If no Dems vote for his bill, he can only afford to lose 16 members of his caucus.
It should be difficult for Boehner to get a majority, since the centerpiece of his effort is amending the 2008 Wilberforce law, a badly-drafted anti-trafficking statute that is probably partly responsible for attracting some of the border surgers, at least as it has been interpreted by President Obama (to require individual hearings for practically everyone from Central America who shows up). Changing or repealing Wilberforce is an admirable project. But in the current legislative context it is quite likely to trigger an attempt to set up an ongoing House-Senate conference in which every frustrated pro-amnesty lobbyist will try to stick in their favorite part of the Senate’s monstrous Gang of 8 “comprehensive” legalization + immigration increase bill. Fixing Wilberforce isn’t worth that risk — it just isn’t. It’s a potential trap. As the anti-amnesty Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) puts it, urging its members to phone and oppose Boehner’s bill:
While this is a laudable goal, the Senate has vowed to block any changes to the 2008 Act. And, if policy changes are sent to the Senate, any legislation that returns to the House is likely to contain some sort of amnesty or other bad policy changes. This would set up a dangerous scenario for a conference committee or action in a lame-duck session of Congress.
If you are inclined to phone your Congressman today — and the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224 3121 is very efficient ** — one message to deliver might be: “No New Laws.” Toothless resolutions are probably fine! But anything the House passes that changes a law, like Wilberforce, sets up a potential conference and is worse than doing nothing. It doesn’t help that Boehner’s legislative changes are reportedly being drafted by Becky Tallent, the professional amnesty-pusher Boehner hired last year in his “hell bent” effort to push through some kind of lobbyist-pleasing legalization bill.
Unfortunately, there’s a second, even trickier trap lurking for anti-amnesty Republicans. That’s because they’re also rightly concerned about President Obama’s threatened executive amnesty of (it is rumored) several million currently undocumented residents. This would be an arrogant and probably illegal power grab, attempting to do unilaterally what Obama couldn’t get done constitutionally by convincing the people’s elected representatives to pass a law. It would build on his suspect 2012 “DACA” amnesty of so-called youthful DREAMers, and it would invariably add to the incentives for would-be illegal immigrants to smuggle themselves across the border. Yet, unlike Wilberforce, it probably can be opposed without risking a conference, under Congress’ arcane rules, simply by prohibiting the use of money to enforce future DACA-style amnesties (rather than changing the law). Senator Ted Cruz and Rep. Marsha Blackburn have proposed doing just that.
But here is where the second trap gets sprung: Boehner’s lieutenants seem prepared to offer conservatives a vote on a Cruz/Blackburn style anti-DACA bill as part of a package that also includes the dangerous Wilberforce changes. That might be hard to resist. It should be resisted. An anti-DACA vote, after all, is almost certainly purely symbolic. There’s no chance Obama will actually sign a law constricting his power, and little chance it would even get through the Senate (though it might put some moderate Dems on the spot).*** A Wilberforce conference committee, on the other hand, could consider permanent changes that might well pass into law. Any House bill that might trigger such a conference is worse than no bill, even if its part of a bill that includes Cruz’s righteous language against future executive amnesties as a lure.
Boehner aides clearly hope to neutralize the amnesty-skeptics’ greatest weapon — popular melt-the-switchboard anger — by requiring the skeptics to take two counterintuitive steps: Resist the impulse to demand changes in Wilberforce, and maybe also resist the impulse to take a stand against Obama’s threatened executive amnesty. Luckily there’s still a powerful emotion that might mobilize callers and wouldn’t have to be resisted: Standing against Boehner’s sneaky year-long elite-driven amnesty campaign. No New Laws! The Speaker surrendered any claim to “trust” when he hired Tallent.
If Republicans still think they have to pass something to avoid being blamed by Obama — and if Boehner will only allow an anti-DACA vote as part of a package with Wilberforce changes – the simple thing is to just give the Obama administration enough money to fund its border efforts for a month and go home.
It would be too perverse if the result of a) the border crisis, which has rightly put Dems on the defensive by demonstrating the folly of a pre-enforcement amnesty and b) Obama’s obnoxious, unpopular assertion of power to grant amnesty on his own, were c) the permanent amnesty Obama wants but hasn’t been able to get.
** — There’s also a list of Members of Congress with their office phone numbers here.
*** — Just between us, now that you’re down here in the footnotes, we can acknowledge that an attempted executive amnesty by Obama would not be the end of the world: It would be inherently limited. It might be declared illegal. And, most important, it would probably kill the chances of a sweeping “comprehensive” amnesty bill for the remainder of Obama’s presidency. That’s one reason I’m still not convinced Obama will go through with it. It certainly shouldn’t spook Republicans into passing a bill that lets a full-fledged legislative amnesty in the back door.