As predicted, the House leadership has sprung its “supertrap” on conservative dissenters, luring them to vote for a flawed border bill with the promise of a second vote on a law purporting to prevent President Obama from expanding his de facto “deferred action” (DACA) amnesty of young illegal immigrants (the so-called “DREAMers”). The main bill is itself still deeply flawed:
1) It opens up the possibility ( embraced yesterday by Harry Reid) that the Senate could seek a conference with the House in which a much broader, “Gang of 8″ style amnesty (plus immigration expansion) is on the table. Some have said the Senate would have trouble getting 60 votes to do this. But the original “Gang of 8″ immigration legalization/amnesty bill got 68 Senate votes. Why take the risk (including the risk that Reid might alter the 60-vote rule)? The prospect of a conference opens up a can of mischief that might remain open until early next year. What if, for example, business interests seek a conference to pursue dramatic expansions of legal immigration (something Speaker Boehner seemingly has not pledged to oppose)? [Update: Even if there is no formal conference, couldn't Reid's Democratic Senate insist on at least some parts of "comprehensive" amnesty simply as a quid-pro-quo for swallowing the Wilberforce changes Democrats say they oppose? I don't see why not. Do you want to rely on Boehner's "brick wall" negotiating boast? How much are Boehner boasts worth today?]
2) The Boehner bill’s provisions for dealing with “unaccompanied alien children”(UACs) at the Southern border are arguably worse than the status quo. They would equalize treatment of migrants from Central America and Mexico, not by applying to Central Americans the speedy repatriations now given Mexicans but in part by giving Mexicans extra hearing opportunities. (Note: There are many more Mexicans than Central Americans.) Numbers USA says the bill:
“will actually make the crisis worse by layering new procedural hurdles over current hurdles before any UACs, including Mexicans under this bill, can be removed. Rather than simply expediting the removal of Central American UACs, the House bill compounds the problem by adding UACs from contiguous countries to a convoluted, multi-layered hearing and review process that guarantees the UACs multiple opportunities to remain in the United States for years. The bill even fails to prevent HHS from turning over UACs to illegal-alien family members in the United States.”
The “Wilberforce” law that these provisions seek to modify is arguably not even the cause of the border surge anyway, since many of the new entrants aren’t “unaccompanied” under the statute’s definition.
3) In exchange, conservatives are being offered a separate vote on anti-DACA language that has been watered down from the original proposal from Senator Cruz and Representative Blackburn. This second vote will almost certainly be only symbolic, since there is little chance the Democratic Senate will approve it and send it to President Obama. As I read the new language it not only protects current DACA beneficiaries, but a) allows new applicants to DACA to also receive “deferred action,” b) exempts individuals whom Obama “paroles” — inviting him to expand a potentially huge loophole that has been championed by some immigration activists. [Update: It also appears that, since this anti-DACA bill no longer simply defunds DACA, but actually orders Obama not to do x and y, it may be independently "conferenceable" with Reid's Senate Gang of 8 bill. See point (1) above.]
Should you wish to urge your representative to vote against this questionable package, the highly efficient U.S. Capitol switchboard remains (202) 224-3121. A list of Representatives and their phone numbers is here. A handy NumbersUSA form is here.
The initial vote is scheduled for early Thursday afternoon.