Senate Declares War on the House

After months of debate and public outcries from supporters and critics of illegal immigration, the Senate voted 62-36 tonight in favor of a plan that nearly all conservatives are calling a massive amnesty. By doing so, the Senate has effectively declared war on the House of Representatives, which last December approved a plan emphasizing border security.

Four Republican senators who are frequently mentioned as potential presidential candidates in 2008—Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senators Sam Brownback, Chuck Hagel and John McCain—disregarded the concerns of the American people in favor of a bill praised by the Democratic Party and liberal lion Teddy Kennedy.

I’ve just finished sorting through the dozens of statements that have poured into my e-mail inbox throughout the night expressing approval and disapproval for the bill. I’ve broken them down into the following four categories. I believe these statements—particularly those of the bill’s supporters—will have a profound effect on these politicians, particularly the Republicans. Twenty-three Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and perhaps they won’t be turned out of office in 2006, but this vote won’t be one they soon forget. Conservatives should make it a point to remind them.

Senate Opponents

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn.)

“This bill has been greatly improved, but does not do enough to secure our borders to allow me to vote yes. I am disappointed to vote no because Congress should not end the year without taking strong steps to secure our borders, to define the legal status of foreign students and workers, and to help prospective citizens learn English and U.S. history so they can become Americans.”

“After we negotiate with the House of Representatives, I hope there will be comprehensive immigration legislation that I can support.”

Sen. George Allen (R.-Va.)

“This is a country that has been settled, built and improved by immigrants and it will continue to be. My mother is an immigrant, so I appreciate the value of immigrants to our country. However, the reality is that this bill that we voted on today did not meet my two foundational principles: First, I believe the American people deserve borders that are secure. If we don’t secure the border, none of the reforms included in this bill will have any meaningful impact whatsoever. We need to stop the flow of illegals across our border and get it down to a trickle. Second, we should not reward illegal behavior. If the U.S. government rewards illegal behavior with amnesty, we’ll get more illegal behavior.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.)

“The American people have been demanding that their elected officials take action to limit illegal immigration first by securing our borders, then by addressing guest worker reform. Unfortunately, this bill reversed those priorities. Rewarding illegal immigrants with amnesty without taking adequate steps to secure our borders is the wrong way to address this problem.”

America is a welcoming nation that was built by immigrants, but it is also a nation governed by the rule of law. Rewarding illegal immigrants with a clear path to citizenship and voting rights is unfair to the millions of individuals who immigrated to this country legally. This approach will also make the problem of illegal immigration worse, which is precisely what happened after Congress passed a similar law in 1986.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.)

“I strongly believe the federal government has neglected our border security and immigration system for too long, and our country badly needs a comprehensive reform bill to correct decades of inaction. But in its current form, this bill is not where it needs to be.

“One thing is clear: The status quo is unacceptable and the only people who benefit by it are smugglers, criminals and unscrupulous employers. It’s important that we move a bill to conference.

“The comprehensive bill I introduced last year with Sen. Kyl was written with an eye toward the conference committee and how to bridge the differences between the House and the Senate, because we knew there were going to be fairly significant differences in the approach. I have remained consistent to the principles that I put forth a year ago, and my hope is that I can play a constructive role in bridging the differences between those two approaches.”

Sen. Mike Crapo (R.-Idaho)

“It is understandable why many would want to immigrate to America. America is a land of opportunity and freedom and represents those ideals to many throughout the world. However, in order to maintain the strength of this country, we must uphold our laws. I have been very concerned about the amnesty provisions included in this measure and ultimately could not support the bill, even though there are some good provisions in it.”

“It is a contradiction to try to curb illegal immigration by providing a path to citizenship for millions of people who entered the country illegally. Granting amnesty instead rewards those who broke the law at the expense of those who are attempting to enter our country through legal channels. This will only create incentives for further illegal immigration.”

Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R.-N.C.)

“I have maintained that securing our borders and enforcing current laws must come first—and unfortunately this bill puts amnesty first. I have consistently stated that I would support a program that provides temporary worker permits to help bring people out of the shadows. But I cannot and will not support granting amnesty to those who have broken our laws and entered this nation illegally.

“In addition, this bill contains a number of provisions that just defy common sense, such as allowing illegal immigrants who fraudulently use a U.S. citizen’s Social Security number to accumulate and collect benefits from an already tight Social Security trust fund!

“As in 1986, passing an amnesty bill is not going to solve the problem of large scale illegal immigration—to solve this problem, we need strict border enforcement, effective work place verification, and a program for genuinely temporary workers.”

Sen. Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.)

“The nation needs legislation that will secure our borders and provide meaningful immigration reform – this bill completely misses that mark. The Senate has approved a bill that is critically flawed, and doesn’t go far enough to secure our borders and strengthen the rule of law.

“This bill, under its temporary worker program, would place illegal immigrants and all incoming aliens on a pathway to legal permanent residency and ultimately citizenship.

“Temporary, must truly mean temporary, and participants in any temporary worker program should be required to return back to their country. Our responsibility as United States Senators is to the people we represent in the United States, and our obligation is to best serve their interests. This bill seems to put the interest of immigrants before American workers and those waiting patiently in line to legally immigrate here.”

Senate Supporters

Sen. Bob Bennett (R.-Utah)

“The bill passed today by the Senate is not perfect, but it’s a necessary step. It includes important provisions that will strength our borders, without which we have little chance of managing or resolving our immigration challenges. But focus on border security must be linked to other practical solutions, like a guest worker program, if we are to solve our immigration problems. We must enable the border patrol agents to focus on apprehending criminals, drug runners and terrorists, instead of being overwhelmed by those seeking legitimate employment.”

Sen. Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.)

“I am pleased that the Senate passed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, which strengthens our border significantly and makes practical provisions for our massive immigration problems. In order to have a workable immigration system we must fix the existing problems. We learned from the mistakes of the 1986 amnesty bill and the 1996 enforcement-only bill that immigration reform must be comprehensive.

“We must be a nation of laws, but we must also be compassionate. Right now, there are more than 12 million immigrants in the country illegally, and we must bring these people out of the shadows without rewarding them for past transgressions.”

Sen. Larry Craig (R.-Idaho)

“Is this bill perfect? No. But it realistically addresses the immigration challenges facing America today by delivering in each of the three critical areas of reform: better border security, increased internal enforcement, and visa reform. Without all three, reform is meaningless, because it will be incomplete and ineffective.

“I’m very pleased that Idaho’s growers are one step closer to being able to hire workers more efficiently, with confidence those workers are here legally. Without that ability, and without those workers, crops will rot in the field and American agriculture will look to outsourcing to foreign countries. I doubt Americans want to be dependent on foreign nations for food in the same way we are for oil. If it becomes law, this legislation will prevent that from happening.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.)

“Today I am proud to say that the Senate has acted. We’ve taken a bill, and we’ve made it better. We’ve taken a bill that the American people would have concluded was amnesty—and by my lights, we took the amnesty out while we put the security in.

“So this bill we are about to pass has a six-year plan to dramatically increase the number of border patrol agents hired, trained, and deployed to the southern border. The bill before us provides substantial reinforcement to our borders and to the laws on the books. And it also provides a means for some to earn citizenship while enforcing necessary restrictions.

“No, this product isn’t perfect. Much more refinement needs to be done. But without doubt, the amendments and the debate of the past 2 weeks have strengthened the core of this bill. “I am grateful to my colleagues for insisting that those amendments be heard.

“Every nation must keep its citizens safe, and its borders secure. We shouldn’t have to choose between respect for our history and respect for our laws. With hard work and responsible debate here, we can have both. On this floor, we have engaged in responsible debate. Over the last several months we have worked hard. And with the bill before us, today we do have both.”

Sen. Teddy Kennedy (D.-Mass.)

“With the passage of this comprehensive legislation, with our strong commitment to achieve it, America will be a stronger, fairer, more just place.

“That’s our desire. That’s our commitment. And we welcome—we welcome—the strong leadership of the president of the United States in this undertaking.

“Here in the United States, we’ve done what we could. The House has taken action. And now we welcome the opportunity to work with the president to bring us all together to pass the kind of comprehensive legislation, which this nation deserves—strong in terms of national security and reflective of our decency and our humanity.”

Sen. Ted Stevens (R.-Alaska)

“The Immigration Reform Act is an important piece of legislation, and I commend my colleagues for supporting its passage. This bill includes provisions that directly benefit our state’s seafood and tourism industries, and it will ensure Alaskans who live in remote areas have access to immigration services. The provision extending the WHTI implementation deadline will help ensure our state is not disproportionately impacted by this new documentation program.”

House Opponents

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio)

“The American people expect Congress to secure our borders and stop the flood of illegal immigration, and House Republicans responded by passing a strong border security bill that re-establishes basic respect for our immigration laws. Now that the Senate has passed a bill, we owe it to the American people to seek common ground on responsible solutions, while always stressing our most important priority is to secure our borders and stop illegal immigration.

“I’m committed to working with Chairman Sensenbrenner, Chairman King, and House Republicans to ensure we produce a strong bill that meets our commitments to the American people. I would urge House Democrats, who have constantly advocated troubling policies that encourage open borders and invite more illegal immigrants into our country, to join us in supporting a strong bill that addresses the concerns of the American people and makes our borders more secure.”

Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa)

“Americans will not support this bill, because it has been branded with a scarlet letter A for amnesty.

“The Senate is rewarding lawbreakers with the very prize they were seeking, citizenship. Apparently our laws mean nothing to the majority of the Senate.

“Having enough cheap labor to do our dirty jobs isn’t a national security issue, controlling our borders is.”

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R.-N.C.)

“The Senate—in its move to placate illegal aliens while seeming tough on border security—is attempting to play ‘good cop, bad cop.’ But the fact remains all they’re doing is playing Barney Fife and putting Otis back on the streets.”

“Without a doubt, the House’s no-nonsense immigration reform bill is a better approach to solving the immigration reform problem—it strengthens our borders and turns its back on amnesty. Amnesty is not the answer. The simple truth is that if you break the law to come to this country, you will not respect it once you’re here.”

“Providing amnesty to illegal immigrants is a slap in the face to the immigrants who came to our nation and faced head-on the process of becoming legal citizens—the right way, the legal way.”

Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.)

“The Senate has passed an amnesty bill. Amnesty by any other name is still amnesty. The American people do not support amnesty for illegal immigrants.

“This does not mean, however, that we cannot work together to find a solution to the problem of illegal immigration. The real rational middle ground can be found in a bill that is tough on border security, employer enforcement, and contains a no-amnesty guest worker program run by the private sector.”

Rep. John Shadegg (R.-Ariz.)

“The immigration bill passed by the United States Senate is fatally flawed. It rewards people for breaking our laws and demeans the significance of becoming a U.S. citizen.

“President Bush says he does not support an ‘automatic path to citizenship’ for those currently here illegally. Neither do I. But, in fact, the Senate bill creates virtually automatic citizenship.

“President Bush also says that temporary workers should be just that, temporary, and that they should ‘return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.’ The Senate bill gives new ‘guest workers’ a ‘path to citizenship.’ There is nothing temporary about that.

“The Senate bill does not meet the conditions the President has articulated. I oppose it and would vote against it in its present form. It stands no chance of passing the U.S. House and becoming law.”

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R.-Colo.)

“The battle is joined. Today, the U.S. Senate passed the largest illegal alien amnesty in American history. It is bad for our national security, it is bad for American workers, and it sends a very bad message to those waiting legally for their chance at the American dream. The only good news is that Congressmen are going home next week where they are guaranteed to get hell from their constituents for this amnesty.

“A majority of House Republicans are holding firm as the last line of defense against the Senate’s amnesty plan. The President is well known for arm-twisting, but immigration is in the front of Americans’ minds, and I doubt Members will easily flip on this issue. Speaker Hastert has reaffirmed his ‘majority of the majority’ rule, which makes sure that my party’s leadership doesn’t collude with the Democrats to pass an amnesty bill.”

House Supporters

Rep. Jeff Flake (R.-Ariz.)

“It would have been a lot easier to kick the can down the road by taking an enforcement-only approach, so the Senate deserves credit for passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill.”

“The ball is back in the House’s court, and I urge Speaker Hastert to not waste any time in appointing members to the conference committee so we can begin the difficult task of reaching a consensus.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.)

“The comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform bill passed today by the Senate is certainly not perfect legislation. However, the Senate bill clearly is preferable to the draconian and punitive legislative approach adopted in December by House Republicans, who for the first time ever would make millions of undocumented immigrants felons and those who help them subject to criminal penalties.

“I believe there is virtually unanimous agreement in the Congress that we must secure our borders and know who is entering our country. The Senate bill takes an important step in the right direction in securing our borders, while also keeping American families together and offering businesses the employees they need to thrive.

“As the process moves forward, it is critical that President Bush exert strong leadership and dispense with the unrealistic, enforcement-only approach of House Republicans. The fact is, House Republicans stand virtually isolated in this important debate, while the President, a bipartisan majority in the Senate and an overwhelming majority of House Democrats continue to advocate comprehensive legislation.

“Today’s vote in the Senate sends should be a wake-up call for the right-wing of the Republican Party that its misguided views are out of step with the American people.”