Comment: Crocodile Lamar - Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of RollCall recently wrote a column titled "'Nativist Lobby' Is Winning on Immigration" offering the sage and obvious observation that "The failure of Congress and two presidents to enact immigration reform is plunging the nation into an ugly future." Rep. Lamar Smith, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee replied in a column published today in RollCall with the usual litany of bogus claims that many Republicans have come to make on immigration matters, especially the fig-leaf of pretending to be for "the rule of the law" except for those laws that he disagrees with. One paragraph in particular is important for pro-immigrationists to grasp the significance of, and act upon, if disaster in the 112th Congress is to be avoided. Mr. Smith writes:
"More than 26 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Meanwhile, 7 million illegal immigrants remain in the U.S. work force. We could make jobs available for citizens and legal immigrants if we simply enforced our current immigration laws."
Mr. Smith's statement is wrong on two counts (and it's the second count that matters): Firstly, the 7 million undocumented Americans aren't leaving the US, even if the US were to use Gestapo techniques, shooting people in the streets (the American people will not stand for it). Secondly, it's the issue of who do those jobs belong to – American employers or American employees. If it is American employees, as Mr. Smith implies, then why does Mr. Smith support free trade where employers, both American and foreign, can choose which countries to site many jobs. A person who insists that American jobs belong to American employees cannot logically support free trade which posits that jobs belong to employers. More than logic is at stake here – a big chunk of Mr. Smith's campaign funds likely come from corporations and lobbyists who are counting on Mr. Smith to deliver on the claim that he makes on the "issues" page of his House website: "I believe that free trade is vital to economic growth and job stability". What Mr. Smith really means is this: American jobs belong to American employers who can move them wherever in the world they wish – however, if those jobs stay in America but are held by people of color then Mr. Smith has a big problem that "the law isn't being followed".
Mr. Smith has happily persisted in his contradictions, without contradicting Mr. Kondracke in the interests of intellectual debate. Why does Mr. Smith issue his lamentations now? Mr. Smith's crocodile tears on enforcement do have a motive, and it is this motive that advocates should understand and act upon. The Supreme Court will soon issue a decision on the Arizona E-Verify case (Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Whiting), which has been litigated for several years. Justice Kagan has recused herself from this case, as she has with many other cases she was involved in as Solicitor General. Gary Endelman opines that in consequence of the recusal, it is even more likely that Mr. Kennedy, the court's traditional swing vote, will not create a 4-4 split (Mr. Endelman has been consistently right in his predictions on this litigation). Instead, Mr. Kennedy is likely to side with the conservatives on the court and the Supreme Court will likely pronounce Arizona's E-Verify statute constitutional. We believe that Mr. Smith is preparing for this decision, expected within weeks, to launch an E-Verify blitzkrieg, and cause the House to pass stridently anti-immigration legislation including mandatory E-Verify requirements for employers. Unless advocates frame the issue correctly to the public and build a strong firewall in the Senate, President Obama may be too scared to veto the bill. Mr. Obama has not yet delivered his State of the Union address. If he takes a strong pro-immigration position in his remarks to Congress then, perhaps Mr. Obama might yet stiffen the spines of Senators. The best way to implement a firewall against Mr. Smith is this: The important thing is NOT to kill Mr. Smith's bad bill, terrible though it will be. Instead, it is important to attach large quantities of benefits to it in the Senate and send it back to the House. When Mr. Smith then directs that his bill be killed, supporters of immigration in Congress will be able to paint Mr. Smith et al as BOTH anti-benefits and anti-enforcement.
That is why Mr. Smith's crocodile tears in RollCall are significant, we urge those who support immigration benefits to notice Mr. Smith's strategy and act accordingly, the 112th Congress's immigration report card is at stake.
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