I’m spending the day watching the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the Gang of Eight immigration bill. Thus far, there have been two panels and a total of 11 witnesses. Unfortunately, none addressed, or is qualified to address, the core issue of border security.
The first panel dealt with the issue of agricultural workers. All three witnesses testified in favor of the legislation, which would provide a path to a Blue Card and then to citizenship for farm workers who are here illegally, as well as a guest worker program through which to replenish the agricultural work force as the current force moves into more desirable jobs.
The key thing to remember about this issue is that, as Sen. Cruz pointed out, the needs of the agricultural industry could be met through a guest worker program without offering a path to citizenship to anyone who is in this country illegally. A second point, made by Sen. Sessions, is that there is every reason to expect strong pressure to legalize those who would come here under the guest worker program once their six year stay is over.
The second panel consisted of eight witnesses, all of whom support the legislation, but some of whom argued for a changes that would liberalize it.
Seven of the eight witnesses testified about how provisions pertaining to legal immigration would benefit business. The other witness, former Rep. Jim Kolbe, testified in favor of extending family unification provisions to gay and lesbian couples. Kolbe is gay and plans to marry a Panaminian male.
As with the earlier panel, all of the business needs cited by the panelists could be met without creating a path to citizenship.
For those keeping score, the Committee has now heard from 13 witnesses, 12 of whom support the Gang’s bill. None has any expertise in the area of border security.
To date, there has been more testimony about “unifying” gay couples than about border security. That, I think, speaks to the seriousness of the legislation’s proponents when it comes to border security. Yet border security is at the heart of the bill and, indeed, is supposedly the trigger for amnesty and a path to citizenship.
A third panel is about to convene. I will report on its testimony later.
UPDATE: The third panel contains six witnesses. Four of them support the Gang of Eight legislation. They are two Hispanic activists, a local pastor, and an immigration lawyer. None has testified about border security, nor would any be qualified to do so.
Two of the witnesses oppose the legislation. They are Mark Krikorian and Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas. Neither has experience in border enforcement, but both appear knowledgeable about the issue and obviously have carefully analyzed the legislation as it applies to enforcement and amnesty. Both delivered withering attacks on the enforcement and amnesty provisions of the Gang’s bill. I’ll summarize these attacks in a subsequent post.
We’ll see whether the proponents on the Committee take them on. Chairman Leahy studiously avoided questioning either Krikorian or Kobach. I hope and expect that Sen. Schumer (who “called out” Krikorian, though not by name, earlier in the day) and Sen. Graham will tread where Leahy feared to go.
FURTHER UPDATE: Minnesota’s Amy Klobucher takes a pass on questioning Krikorian and Kobach.
Jeff Sessions questions the pastor as to whether Scripture forecloses a nation from taking serious action to enforce its immigration laws, past and present. Going one step further, Sessions cites Scripture in support of such enforcement.
Sessions also defends his estimate that the Gang’s bill might well result in the legalization of 30 million people.
Durbin asks Kobach about the “dreamers” — those who were brought to America as youngsters. Kobach says that the children should be treated like others of the same nationality, and not be given the opportunity to take advantage of their being here illegally. The child, in other words, should neither be punished nor rewarded for the sins of the parent.
Durbin falls back on the fact that the four Republicans in the Gang agreed with him, after much discussion. Not much of an argument. He then asserts that “we’re a better a country” with the “dreamers” being legalized. Again, this is the triumph of assertion over genuine argument.
I think we’re a better country when our laws are respected, rather than being trumped by disregard for the law on a massive scale.
Sen. Cornyn asks the pastor about a provision that would allow illegals who have two convictions for drunk driving, domestic violence, or child abuse to be eligible for amnesty and a path to citizenship. The pastor, David Fleming of Houston, admits this makes him somewhat uncomfortable. One would hope so.
Al Franken ducks Krikorian and Kobach. We have a new way of separating the lightweight Democrats on this Committee from the non-lightweights. Let’s call it the Krikorian/Kobach test.
Sen. Coons, who defeated Christine O’Donnell in the 2010 Delaware Senate race, ducks Krikorian and Kobach. I think we already knew he’s a lightweight.
Sen. Blumenthal questions Kobach about the dreamers, and how they differ from those who are born here to illegal immigrants (by law, they are legal). It’s a fair and interesting question, but not very helpful in determining whether the dreamers should be legalized. The proper response to one mistake is not to repeat the same mistake or a similar one.
As expected, Sen. Schumer asks Krikorian a question. The question is whether Krikorian favors lower levels of legal immigrtion. Krikorian says yes, but the more important issue is what to do about illegal immigrants. That ends Schumer’s questioning and also this panel.
The fourth panel consists of six witnesses — three in favor of the legislation and three opposed. The three in favor are Mark Shurtleff, former Utah attorney general; Bill Vidal, former mayor of Denver; and Grover Norquist. In their statements, none of the three said anything substantive about border enforcement. Only Shurtleff even gave it a nod.
The first of the three witnesses opposed to the legislation was Janice Kephart, former counsel to the 9/11 commission. She testified that the system established by the Gang of Eight bill would not stop terrorists. She also explained the defects of the trigger for amnesty. I’ll discuss them in another post.
The next opponent witness was Chris Crane, head of the union that represents employees of ICE. He is the first witness with hands-on experience in immigration enforcement.
Not coincidentally, Crane was excluded from ever appearing before the Gang of Eight, even as union and big business representatives virtually camped out with the Gang. Indeed, Crane testified that when he tried to ask a question at a press conference in which the bill was unveiled, the police and Senate staff escorted him out of the room. The Gang’s treatment of Crane — which is about what one would expect from a real gang — tells us all we need to know about the lack of good faith of Sens. Schumer, Rubio, etc.
Crane testified that the bill ignores the problems that are making enforcement of the immigration laws so difficult. It gives more discretion to those in government who are refusing to enforce the law. How, he wondered, can one depend for enforcement on a government in which the president refuses, as President Obama has, to apply provisions of the immigration law with which he disagrees?
Crane also denounced the bill’s unwillingness to use biometrics. This, he said, renders the bill “ineffective yesterday.”
The third opponent witness, Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, testified persuasively that illegal aliens take more in services than they pay in taxes. The reason is that illegal immigrants as a group are poorly educated, and poorly educated immigrants as a group take more in services than they pay in taxes.
Norquist’s response on this issue was less persuasive. He asserted his mindless mantra that “people are an asset, not a liability,” and referred to a study by Douglas Holtz-Eakin (who testified on Friday) — a study that Camarota showed to be flawed.
The Senators are now questioning the members of this panel, but I’m going to sign off at this point.