The Senate immigration reform bill, which passed by an impressive 68-32 margin last week, contains assurances of border security. But for any immigration legislation to get through the House, it most assuredly will have to be even stronger on that crucial concern.
Fourth District Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., re-confirmed that point on “Fox News Sunday.” The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Subcommittee explained:
“I cannot sell in South Carolina a border security plan where the security comes after the legalization. I can’t sell a border security plan where Janet Napolitano gets to tell us the border is secure. I can’t sell a border security plan where the executive can turn on and off triggers for political expedient reasons. Nor would I try to sell any of those plans.”
Rep. Gowdy’s wary view is shared by many of his fellow House Republicans. And Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has repeatedly warned that he won’t back any immigration bill that doesn’t have the support of a majority of the House’s GOP members.
The Congressional Budget Office did issue a report Wednesday strengthening the Senate bill’s case. According to that analysis, the legislation’s late “border surge” amendment from Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., would cut the rate of illegal immigration by up to 50 percent. That’s a marked improvement over the 25 percent reduction the CBO projected for the original proposal by the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” which includes South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham.
Still, the Democratic-run Senate’s bill clearly won’t become law as written (see Debra Saunders’ column on today’s Commentary page).
That, however, doesn’t mean the Republican-run House shouldn’t pass an immigration bill of its own, then let a conference committee of members from both chambers of Congress sort out the differences.
It also doesn’t mean Rep. Gowdy and other critics of the Senate bill, including S.C. Sen. Tim Scott, don’t recognize the need for an overhaul of immigration policy.
As Rep. Gowdy put it Sunday: “I’ll support immigration reform. I think the current system is broken.”
He added: “The issue is not the broad principles of the immigration reform and humanity and respect for the rule of law. Virtually everyone agrees on the broad principles. Where we get ourselves into a little bit of a difference of opinion are the details.”
Yet Rep. Gowdy also said, “I do agree that what we have now is de facto amnesty.”
Without an immigration bill that President Barack Obama will sign, including a “pathway to citizenship,” that status quo — that “de facto amnesty” — will remain in place.
So the sooner the House crafts — and passes — a reasonable version of immigration reform, the sooner the conference committee can get to work, and the sooner our long-broken immigration system can be fixed.
And that should be no later than this year.