The Largest Amnesty in History

“Absolutely devastating to Middle America” is Cable News Network commentator’s Lou Dobbs’s reaction to the U.S. Senate’s 64-35 vote on Tuesday for cloture and the resurrection of an expensive and massive illegal alien amnesty/guest worker program.

Dobbs and other pundits note President George W. Bush pulled out all the stops to get 24 Republicans to join 39 Democrats and Independent Sen. Joe Leiberman, to vote for the largest amnesty — involving over 15 million illegal aliens — in U.S. history. Sen. Jim DeMint, (R-S.C.), lamented that “many arms were twisted” in spite of massive opposition from the GOP’s center-right base. On the Democratic side, bill architect Sen. Edward Kennedy, (D.-Mass.), the National Immigration Forum, La Raza (“The Race”) and other radical open border advocates worked mightily to beat back AFL-CIO opposition as well as pressure from Democratic working-class constituents. Only nine Democratic senators voted no.

Various polls show the large majority of Americans oppose rewarding lawbreakers even when coupled with fining them, especially when payment of the fines may or may not be enforced. The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services which processes legal immigrants is already horribly overloaded. Its former head of security testified before Congress that it could not verify the true identity of hundreds of thousands of applicants. What would be any different when millions more are added to the mix?

Most lawmakers responded to moving S. 1639 forward with the enthusiasm of a man amputating his own arm. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) has seen his popularity dramatically slip in recent weeks, according to the Rasmussen poll, as more people discovered he was supporting a bill crafted in secret with absolutely no cost estimates on the heavy taxpayer burdens it will impose. Ask Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) how fast his approval rating plummeted when he accused conservative talk radio hosts of not knowing what was in the bill. GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who voted with Lott for cloture on S. 1639, is also receiving heavy home-state criticism.

Particularly upsetting to opponents is the role of Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) who surprisingly helped Kennedy and Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), jumpstart the revival. The bill could have died after the earlier version of the “grand compromise” was shot down on June 7. Kyl won re-election last November on a militant anti-amnesty platform and until recently was warning that granting amnesty for so many was not going to be cheap. Heritage Foundation researchers estimate the legislation will cost a staggering $2.3 trillion over 30 years.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R.-Ga.) attempted to change the bill so that border security measures would be operative before other provisions were “triggered” such as importing the low-skilled foreign workers and issuing limitless and renewable Z visas to those here illegally. But his “triggers” were window dressing. (Isakson ended up voting against the bill in June.)

Make no mistake. S. 1639 stipulates that provisional Z visas will be issued willy-nilly to all illegals within 180 days after the president signs the legislation. So they win! The lawbreakers get to stay. A special category will encourag creation of false identities courtesy of these visas that could benefit gang members or even terrorists. It allows them to obtain driver’s licenses and travel the country at will. As Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) laments, “A few senators and the administration have crafted a large-scale, get-out-of-jail free pass.”

S. 1639 is a bountiful horn of plenty for those who have snuck across our border:

• The amnesty extends to those ordered deported by an immigration judge but who are evading the order. The Heritage Foundation estimates there are 636,000 such fugitives and they qualify if departure would result in “extreme hardship.” That’s a massive loophole. Bleeding heart lawyers will argue that virtually anything constitutes “extreme hardship.”

• Members of violent gangs are rewarded with amnesty. There are 30,000-plus criminal gang members in 30 states and their deportation has been a top priority.

• Taxpayers would be forced to underwrite the legal bills for immigrants seeking amnesty through the left-wing Legal Services Corporation. (Current law bars this federally-funded agency from representing illegals.)

• In-state college tuition is bestowed upon anyone with a Z visa. Competitive slots that otherwise would go to citizens or others here legally would be surrendered.

• An illegal can apply for amnesty in any language. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., inserted a section downgrading official English and safeguarding the Clinton Executive Order 13166 requiring federal agency and funds recipients to provide interpreters for non-English speakers at taxpayer expense.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R.-Iowa), says the “worst mistake” of his career was voting for a 1986 bill which honestly included the word “amnesty” in its language. That why he is now an opponent. Grassley says he doesn’t want to repeat his mistake since rewarding lawbreakers only invites more illegal immigration. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D.-N.D.) further emphasizes how American workers are stabbed in the back. His amendment stripping new foreign “guest workers” from the original bill passed by one vote.

Bush spokesman Tony Snow believes S. 1639 will win after “a pretty vigorous fight” over 22 to 24 amendments. But even if they all pass, it appears meaningless. Kennedy is crowing that any provisions in the final bill with which the original “grand compromisers” disagree will simply be stripped out during closed-door conference committee negotiations.

Opponents, however, still hope to peel away enough supporters during the amendment votes to thwart final Senate passage. In any event the House of Representatives must also consider S. 1639 if it passes the Senate — and already the 200-plus member House GOP caucus is signaling its opposition. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R.-Mich.) spoke for many colleagues when noting that “a public hearing has never been held on it, and it was crafted in secret by only 12 senators and two cabinet officials.”

To paraphrase the late Saddam Hussein, this will be “the mother of all immigration battles.”