The Immigration Bill: Whose Deal Is It?

Debate began this morning in the Senate on the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill. Jeff Sessions kicked off opposition to the bill with a speech that focused, among other things, on the bill’s genesis. As everyone knows, the bill began with a “deal” that was reached by the Gang of Eight. But who had input into that deal, and who didn’t? What interests were represented, and what interests were not? Further, we were promised a transparent process in the Senate, but what really happened in committee was that significant amendments were voted down, even when their merits were more or less universally acknowledged, lest the “deal” be upset:

We did have a markup in the Judiciary Committee. We were allowed to offer amendments and had some debate there. But it was an odd thing, and repeatedly members not even in the Gang of Eight would say, “I like this amendment, but I can’t vote for it because I understand it upsets the deal.” So we need to ask ourselves, who made the deal? Whose deal is this? …

There were a number of Republican amendments accepted, a number of Republican amendments accepted…. But none of those fundamentally altered the framework and substance of this legislation. …

So, how did the legislation become as defective as it is? I contend, I think it’s quite plain, it was because it was not written by independent members of the Senate in a more open process, but was written by special interests…. I think it goes to the heart of the difficulties we have. There was continual meetings over the last couple of months. Powerful groups met, excluding the interests of the American people, excluding the law enforcement community. Throughout the bill you can see the influence that these groups had on the drafting of it. Some of the groups actually did the drafting. A lot of the language clearly came from the special interest groups that were engaged in these secret negotiations. …

So this is what happened. Big labor and big business were active in drafting this legislation, with the entire deal hanging on, it was reported, their negotiations. For example, the Wall Street Journal, March 10, the headline “Competing Interests Abound.” Quote: “The Chamber of Commerce and businesses it represents are locked in negotiations with the AFL-CIO about workers in industries like hospitality and landscaping. Meanwhile, farm worker unions have been quietly negotiating with growers’ associations about how to revamp short-term visas for agricultural workers, and senators on both sides of the aisle are weighing in to ensure their state industries are protected.” …

What is the agreement? Between the unions and big business. Who’s representing the American worker effectively?

The New York Times, March 30, “The nation’s top business and labor groups have reached an agreement on a guest worker program for low-skilled immigrants, a person with knowledge of negotiations said. Senator Schumer convened a conference call on Friday night with Thomas J. Donahue, the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Richard Trumka, the President of the AFL-CIO….in which they agreed in principle on a guest worker program for low-skilled, year-round temporary workers.”

Having the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO negotiate the fate of American workers is like having Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union negotiate the fate of Poland.

And we know that there was one group not included in these talks, and that is the group that is given the duty to enforce the laws involved in immigration. The National I.C.E. Union, the customs enforcement organization, wrote letters…to the Gang of Eight asking them to consult with the officers who have the duty to enforce this law, but to no avail. They were shut out of every meeting and have never really been consulted.

So it’s interesting to note, however, that others weren’t shut out of the meetings. They weren’t left out of the room. … [T]he White House is deeply involved in this, in approving every aspect or disapproving aspects they don’t approve of. The question is, who is influencing this? Who is influencing the White House? The Daily Caller on February 6 notes this: “On February 5, Obama held a White House meeting with a series of industry leaders, progressive advocates and ethnic lobbies, including La Raza, to boost support for his plan that would provide a conditional amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens, allowing new residents to get residency for their relatives and elderly parents and also establish rules for a future flow of skilled and unskilled workers. The invitees invited the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Motorola, Marriott and Deloitte.” …

Even foreign countries have had a say in drafting our law. The Hill on February 7 reported, “Mexico’s new ambassador to the United States, Eduardo Medina, has had a number of meetings with the administration where the issue of immigration has come up…, said a Mexican official familiar with the process. He is expected to meet with lawmakers shortly as legislation begins to take form. ‘Probably like no other country, we are a player on this particular issue,’ the source said.”

Well, the law officers weren’t in the room, we know that. People that questioned the size and scope of our immigration system weren’t in the room. … Again, with all the slush funds in this bill–and there are a number of them–that go to private activist groups, community action groups, it is easy to see who had special interests at the table. The National Review on May 29 reported, “A number of immigration activist groups such as the National Council of La Raza ["The Race"] would be eligible to receive millions in taxpayer funding to advise illegal immigrants applying for legal status under the bill.” So money will go to these activist groups like La Raza, who’s basically advocated not enforcing our laws, so La Raza is in the meetings…. They are there participating. They’re going to get money out of the deal with some of the grant programs, while the law officers who have the ability to tell the committee–the Gang of Eight–how to make the system work, are shut out of the process. Prosecutors, were they involved in the process? No, they haven’t been.

In the Judiciary Committee, the fix was in. Once the special interests had divvied up the pot, no significant changes were allowed, lest the “deal” fall apart:

Some people said the bill had to be drafted in secret, but that the markup process in the Judiciary Committee would be open and transparent. But that is only partially so. We did have a markup. We were allowed–those who have objections to the bill–to offer amendments, as did those who support the bill. … But at every turn in the committee, the members of the Gang of Eight expressed support on occasions for certain amendments, only to vote against the amendment. Due, they said, to the agreement they had to vote together against significant amendments, regardless of their personal feelings. The Gang influenced other members of the committee to do the same.

The Huffington Post, “Senate Immigration Group Turns to Keeping Fragile Agreement Intact.” It goes on to quote Senator McCain as saying, “We will pledge to oppose, all eight of us, provisions that would destroy the fragile agreement that we have.” So they’ve got an agreement. They’ve got an agreement with the unions and big business and agribusiness and La Raza and immigration lawyers. They got agreement with them, and they’re going to defend it even though they acknowledge amendments that were offered would improve the bill. This is no way to serve the national interest, in my view.

In discussing an amendment that would require employers to make a good-faith effort to hire American workers first, Senator Whitehouse said this. This is what happened in the committee–quote–”I’m in a position in which I’m being informed that this would be a deal breaker to the deal. I frankly don’t see how that could be the case, but I’m not privy to that understanding. And so I’m going to vote in support of the agreement that’s been reached.” In other words, Senator Whitehouse says, Well, I don’t understand this. I’d like to vote the other way, but I’m told you got a deal and this would damage the deal. And so I can’t vote for it. He wasn’t even in the Gang of Eight but went along with that. On that same amendment, Senator Franken echoed the remarks, saying–quote–”I really just want to associate myself with Senator Whitehouse’s remarks.” He goes on to say, “I don’t want to be a deal-breaker.” …

I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do, to set public policy in America, to have some secret agreement reached with a group of people we hardly know who they are, trump the ability to do the right thing for the American people. …

What I think our colleagues need to understand and the American people need to understand is in reality, the special interests–La Raza, the unions, the corporate world, the big agriculture businesses, the food processors–they are the ones that made the agreement in this process. And the senators just sort of ratified it, and they can’t agree to a change because they promised these special interest groups things. …

Then the bill gets to the floor and somebody says, let’s change that. Oh, no, we can’t, we’ve got an agreement. Agreement with who? La Raza? Agribusinesses? The Chamber of Commerce? Microsoft? Zuckerberg? That’s what happened here. …

Businesses, groups, organizations have special interests. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. What’s wrong is members of Congress, members of the United States Senate, need to be representing the national interests, the people’s interests, the workers’ interests in America. That’s what we need to be doing, not the special interests.

And I’ve got to tell you the openness of this is sort of breathtaking to me. Who is protecting the national interest? Did they have any of the top-ranked economists in this country being asked what would be the right number of low-skilled workers to bring into America? Did they have any of the top experts say how many advanced science degrees can we have? How many of our college graduates are unemployed? What’s the right number? None of this was apparently discussed by our colleagues who allowed this process to go on.

I would say finally with regard to the special interests, they have no interest, virtually none of them that were involved in this process, in guaranteeing in the future we don’t have illegality. That’s the failure here. They don’t have any interest in that. And, therefore, there was no intensity of interest in that aspect of the legislation.

There will be much more to be said about the defects in the Gang’s immigration bill before the debate is concluded. But in the meantime, Senator Sessions’ blistering attack on how the bill came to be is a good beginning.

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