Hope For Comprehensive Immigration Reform - A "No Show" In Missouri's Senate Race
As summer heats up, the chance of Congress passing any meaningful comprehensive immigration reform has seemed to cool. Rather than attempting to reconcile the House's harsh, enforcement-only bill, H.R. 4437, with the Senate's more reasonable, comprehensive bill, S. 2611, the House's "majority within the majority" have begun their series of "hearings" chocked full of anti-immigration witnesses. These events are road shows where selected parties give testimony that support the House leadership's cursory conclusions and to act as sounding boards. In response, the Senate has also held hearings outside of Washington, D.C. to support S. 2611. 
Given that nothing may happen before November, the prospect for post-election action is uncertain. President Bush will begin his transition to lame duck status and power may shift in the House and/or Senate.
There is some chance that many of the provisions of S. 2611 that provide relief for legal, skilled workers and their employers may become law independently. Known as the "SKIL bill," S. 2691 and H.R. 5744 would make more temporary and permanent visas available for educated, skilled workers. If the SKIL bill becomes law, the undocumented workers or illegal immigrants (you choose your term) and their employers may be left with less support for their relief measures.
This could be critical because this interest bloc will not find much favor from Missouri's Senator Jim Talent and many Republicans in Congress. Even his challenger, Claire McCaskill, and the national Democratic party seem to have turned their backs on these people in an attempt to recreate Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election strategy of attempting to "out-Republican" the Republicans on the issue.
Senator Talent voted against S. 2611 in part because 4,000 e-mails, letters and calls were received by his office in opposition to an "amnesty."  Missouri is home to about 5.8 million people  and approximately 135,000 employers.  A minute fraction of Missouri's population contributed to Senator Talent's decision to vote with the anti-immigration faction of his party and against S. 2611. To be fair, Senator Talent's statement on the bill in the Senate record seems truly deliberative in parts, but he stated he could not vote for the bill due to relief provisions for the undocumented/illegal population. Basically, if the immigration issue were a pinata, it seems as if he hoped to hit it just hard enough to win re-election this fall. Although, if he wins re-election, he will likely not vote for anything coined an "amnesty."
Claire McCaskill's vote on S. 2611 would not differ, but her rhetoric on the immigration issue would make Pat Buchanan proud and make Bill O'Reilly seem nuanced.  Lightly hitting the immigration pinata would not be enough. She would rather rip it from the ceiling and stomp it to pieces on the ground for every vote that it contains. Her basic position is that (1) Senator Talent is a large part of the illegal immigration problem, and (2) he is too soft on the issue because he favors amnesty for employers of undocumented/illegal workers, regardless of when such employment occurred. Based on her website, she would prosecute the undocumented/illegal workers and their employers for any past actions. Who knows how extensive the prosecution would be, but it seems she will promise whatever it takes to win.
At first Claire's position seemed tough and independent, but as later published in the Washington Post on June 29, 2006 , her position parrots the national Democratic party line. Senator Schumer and Rep. Emanuel, the chairmen of the Senate and House Democratic campaign committees, respectively, stated Democratic challengers will launch a coordinated effort to blame the Republican leadership for creating the immigration problems that the GOP now confronts. Similar to the party line, Claire McCaskill uses statistics to prove her point. In particular, she cites the number of employer sanctions resulting in fines from immigration enforcement actions from 1995 to 2004.  Although the associated graph looks damning, it ignores the fact that 80% of this decline occurred between 1995 and 2000 while former-President Clinton was in office and charged with primary responsibility for enforcement of these laws.
Claire McCaskill and the Democratic position on immigration ignore basic structural problems with the law and our country's policies. The Senate bill most closely and carefully addresses these problems, but has been ignored.
The Democratic stance also raises critical questions for the party's members currently in office. What will they do if an H.R. 4437-like measure comes up for a vote? Will their actions be consistent with the party's newfound rhetoric? How will this position square with traditionally Democratic voters who disagree?
In closing, the immigration issue is more than a political pinata to Missourians. It matters to businesses of all sizes that have trouble filling jobs in Missouri. It also matters in those instances where the harsh realities of the law are matched with names and faces close to home. For example, many saw this reality when Myrna Dick of the Kansas City area was recently deported, even though she is married to a citizen and has a citizen child.  In Jefferson City, recent high school graduate and honor student Marie Gonzalez faces an uncertain future and possible deportation.  St. Louis' "Mad Russian" Vladimir Noskov, a U.S. permanent resident, faced possible deportation for being a "criminal alien" under the 1996 amendments to the law.  Why is the law so harsh while public sympathy and support for these three Missourians to be spared from the law so strong?
The answer is that many of our elected representatives choose not to carefully consider the issues and enact laws to solve the problems. Rather, the "majority within the majority" would rather mimic certain radio talk show hosts and trumpet one side of the issue for a brief period of time while carefully selecting guests and screening contrary views on the issue. The Democrats seem to have adopted the "if you can't beat them, join them" strategy on this issue in hopes of cobbling together enough fall wins to gain power. The likely result - either Senator Talent or Claire McCaskill will win office, but neither will support the struggle to enact somewhat humane, reasonable and equitable immigration laws.
1 See: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/immigration;_ylt=AiW7_s6Pykm2cg7CyNVf101Quk0A;_ylu=X
2 See: Endnote 1
3 See text of e-mail below and attached PDF copy of Senate record - pg. S5108E-mail from Sen. Talent's office, 6/8/06
Dear Mr. Weigel:
4 See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missouri
Thank you for contacting my office to share your views on immigration reform. I
agree with you that the priority of any legislation should be border control and
that an amnesty would just encourage more unlawful immigration (Note: My comments were to the contrary.). Attached please find a copy of my speech from the Senate floor expressing my thoughts in a detailed fashion on the subject.
Again, I thank you for being in touch. If you have any further concerns with this or any other issue, please do not hesitate to call or write.
If you would like to contact me via e-mail, please visit http://talent.senate.gov/Contact/default.cfm
Senator Jim Talent
5 See: http://www.dolir.mo.gov/es/ui-tax/documents/UITrustFundBook.pdf - pg. 13
6 See: http://claireonline.com/issues/immigration.jsp
7 See: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/29/AR2006062902074.html - Excerpt from article:
Democrats are increasingly confident that immigration will be a winning issue for them at the polls, as an illustration of their argument that Bush and the GOP congressional leadership are incompetent.
8 See: http://claireonline.com/pressRelease.jsp?key=262&t=; 1995 - Number of Employer Sanctions Resulting in Fines: 909, 2000- Number of Employer Sanctions Resulting in Fines: 180; 180/909=19.8% - therefore an 80.2% drop in these sanctions while a Democratic President was in charge of the executive branch - the branch charged with federal law enforcement.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), the chairmen of the Senate and House Democratic campaign committees, respectively, said Democratic challengers will launch a coordinated effort to blame the Republican leadership for creating the immigration problems that the GOP now confronts. "They're in the majority," Emanuel said. "When you fail, that failure is wrapped around your neck."
For instance, according to statistics cited by the Democrats, the number of border apprehensions has declined by 31 percent since Bush took office, to an average of 1.05 million cases per year between 2001 and 2004, from an average 1.52 million cases per year during the late 1990s. The number of illegal immigrants caught each year inside the United States also declined by about a third, to about 25,901 on average between 2001 and 2004, from an annual average of 40,193 in the late 1990s.
"That is a joke," Schumer said. "It's also a political billboard."
9 See: www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/news/special_packages/immigration_debate/1477
10 See: www.keepmedia.com/pubs/KansasCityStar/2006/05/25/1594963?extID=10032&oliID=213 AND www.democracyinaction.org/dia/organizations/NILC/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=730&t=
Marie%20Template.dwt - this is an overview; more recent news stories show this is still active.
11 See most recent update:
Note: The government chose not to continue with his proceedings.
About The Author
Tony Weigel is a Kansas City, Missouri-area lawyer specializing in business immigration law. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.
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