Time for a reality check on immigration

James Carafano Director, Heritage Foundation's Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies
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Apparently, not everyone on the left was listening to the Scott heard ’round the world. Topping the list is Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos. He wrote a commentary for The Hill declaring that “Immigration is Dems’ key.” Moulitas says the best way for the Democrats to regain momentum is to push through a massive amnesty bill. Apparently, he has not heard of Einstein’s definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Moulitsas’ advice could not be more wrongheaded—and here is why.

First, Moulitas is simply dead wrong to frame this as a Democrat-vs.-Republican issue. He labels Republican opposition to amnesty as “old-school xenophobia and racism, the right-wing anti-immigrant hysteria.” I guess he forgot that the last amnesty bill was authored by the Bush administration—and it is hard to get more right-wing than that. He is also dead wrong to assert that anti-immigrant attitudes are the bedrock of conservative thinking. They are not. It’s hard to get more conservative than the Heritage Foundation, and it has been a strong proponent of honest and sensible reforms. The truth is that immigration does not cut clean between Red and Blue states. Views vary—a lot.

Second, the notion that this is a winnable issue for the Congress is, pardon me, laughable. The fact is that in the House of Representatives, you could make a ham sandwich with the national emblem of the Republic if you wanted to. In the House, anything can be passed with 218 votes. The Democrats control 256. Yet the Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already said she won’t let the House touch immigration until the Senate passes a successful bill first. Meanwhile, the good Senator from New York who crafted the administration’s amnesty bill refused to even introduce it before the Christmas holiday break, out of fear Members would get pummeled by constituents back home. It hardly sounds like the Congressional leadership thinks it has a winning issue here.

Third, the bill is a really bad idea. An amnesty bill won’t solve the problem of illegal immigration. It will just make it worse. We know that for a fact. That is exactly what happened in 1986.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the administration to make amnesty its flagship issue. In fact, what the administration is finding is that just like health care, Middle East peace, dealing with Iran, closing Gitmo, and combating “man-made disasters,” immigration reform has turned out to be a lot tougher than it looks.

James Carafano is Deputy Director of The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.