Is the U.S. becoming a sham democracy?

Eliana Johnson reports that four Republican members of the Senate Judiciary — Jeff Sessions, Chuck Grassley, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz — are calling for transparency from their GOP colleagues in the “Gang of Eight” that is drafting immigration reform legislation. In a letter to John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Jeff Flake, the four Judiciary Committee members express concern that an immigration reform bill will be rushed through Congress without proper oversight in the form of hearings and robust debate. They note that the Gang has “secretly met for months” without consulting with members of the Judiciary Committee about changes to the country’s immigration laws.

Extensive hearings should be a given for any consequential piece of legislation. And when it comes to foundational legislation like immigration reform, which will determine who is lawfully in our country and who can become a citizen, the absence of extensive hearings and deliberation would seem unthinkable — except for the fact that there were no hearings during the last attempt at immigration reform and none on the transformative Obamacare legislation.

Hearings aren’t welcome because they stand in the way of the efforts of small groups of Senators to impose unpopular legislation and in the way of efforts by lobbyists to include even more unpopular surprises in such laws. Most Americans don’t favor a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, just as most Americans didn’t favor Obamacare, and certainly not the “Louisiana Purchase” and the “Cornhusker Kickback.”

It is thus no exaggeration to say that the trend towards passing tranformative legislation without extensive hearings and time for careful deliberation and robust debate threatens to transform the U.S. into a sham democracy.

In the case of the current attempt at immigration reform, the need for hearings and deliberation is even more acute because, although this purports to be bipartisan legislation, the left appears to control the drafting. Among the Republicans, McCain and Graham have long sided with the left on immigration reform, and Flake appears to be a cipher.

That leaves Rubio, but he admitted up front that he’s a novice in the field of immigration law. I have no doubt that Rubio is working to diligently on the subject now, but he’s still playing catch-up.

The real drafting, of course, is being performed by staffers and interest group representatives. It’s a given that, to the extent these folks care about anything other than business and labor interests, they strongly favor amnesty and a path to citizenship for illegals. But one also hopes that there are people in the room who care about border enforcement.

Unfortunately, from what I’m hearing, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Folks who were involved in the 2007 immigration reform bid say that those who worried about enforcement back have not been invited to participate this time around. Those who have been invited appear to regard enforcment not even as an afterthought, but rather as an annoyance.

This isn’t surprising. In 2007, the Bush administration did the inviting. Now it’s Chuck Schumer, the Obama administation (presumably), and maybe Lindsey Graham.

No wonder the Gang of Eight, with the possible exception of Rubio, doesn’t want hearings or time for deliberations. God only knows what will be smuggled into this legislation.


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