Why Congress Blew Immigration Reform, AGAIN


by Richard Saunders – August 5, 2014 (opinions expressed don’t necessary represent eventsfy views)

Shortly after the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 signed into law by Ronald Reagan essentially providing amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, the illegal immigrant situation in America became a problem again.  After decades without any immigration bill passed in Congress to fix the root problem of illegal immigration—including George Bush’s valiant push for comprehensive immigration reform in 2007—the public has become outraged with righteous indignation towards our politicians and political system.

Recent attempts to solve this problem have been thwarted by the hyper-partisan Congress, which currently couldn’t pass a bill that would allow us to grow a new plant that could feed the entire world for fear that we’d be turned into a communist dictatorship or, worse yet, somehow become a very weak nation.

In 2013, surprisingly to all of us, the Senate PASSED a very reasonable BIPARTISAN comprehensive immigration bill—called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013—with 68 senators (Republicans, Independents, and Democrats) voting in favor of this bill.  Attaining 68 senators (out of 100 senators) in favor of any bills these days is virtually impossible but the Senate DID IT, to its credit, passing this reasonable bipartisan bill.  The bill includes:

  • The bill would make it possible for many undocumented immigrants in America before 2012 gain legal status after paying fines and back taxes, passing a background check, and applying for legal status.  It would also make the border more secure by adding up to 40,000 border patrol agents. It also advances talent-based immigration through a points-based immigration system. New visas have been proposed in this legislation, including a visa for entrepreneurs and a W visa. It also proposes new restrictions on H1B visa program to prevent its abuse and additional visas/green-cards for students with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees from U.S. institutions. The bill also includes a $1.5 billion youth jobs program and repeals the Diversity Visa Lottery in favor of prospective legal immigrants who are already in the United States –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_Security,_Economic_Opportunity,_and_Immigration_Modernization_Act_of_2013

So with such surprisingly and overwhelmingly bipartisan Senate support for this comprehensive immigration bill (not to mention overwhelmingly public support), why hasn’t this bill become law?

Well, if you thought the Senate was dysfunctional, let me introduce you to our present dysfunctional, at an unprecedented level, House of Representatives.  You must understand that Congress (both the Senate and House of Representatives) base so many of their procedural rules of passing laws on precedence—do what our ancestors did before.  Congress following precedence doesn’t mean the precedence occurred in 1776 when we passed the Declarations of Independence.  Precedence in Congress could have occurred last year if someone in Congress wanted to do things differently than before—and therefore, create a NEW precedence.

Do understand that so MUCH of our current GRIDLOCK with our Congress has to do with NEW precedencies being established over the years by random congresspersons—people who weren’t divinely inspired like our forefathers of the Declaration of Independence and Our Constitution were.  One of these very debilitating precedencies established in the mid-1990s is the Hastert Rule, which is a governing principle NOW followed by the Republicans of the House of Representatives to ONLY bring forth a bill that has the support of the majority of the majority.  Which means, if Republicans occupy the majority of seats in the House of Representatives, say 235 of the 435 total seats—therefore, controlling the Speakership—then the Republicans will ONLY bring forward a bill IF at least 118 of their 235 members support the bill regardless if ALL the other 200 members from the other party support the bill.  Therefore, a small interested minority of the entire United States can hold up legislation at unprecedented levels.  This Hastert Rule was NEVER established by our forefathers and one could easily argue its unconstitutionality because it has no principle of rightness.  There are other debilitating precedencies (i.e. the filibuster) but let’s just focus on the Hastert Rule precedence, for now.

So back to why this overwhelmingly bipartisan support for this comprehensive immigration bill hasn’t become law.  Blame the Hastert Rule because everyone knows if John Boehner (Speaker of the House) just allowed a vote in the House on the Senate’s bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill, it would pass and become law.

So instead of passing solutions in today’s Congress to the many problems we face, we are in constant gridlock.  John Boehner has the POWER and CAPACITY to bring forward this bipartisan immigration bill and, therefore, void the old Hastert Rule precedent.  However, he would undoubtedly lose his Speakership.

After all the chaos and hoopla coming from the right about all these unaccompanied children being apprehended at the border—due to doubling the number of border agents under Obama—we still find ourselves in total gridlock with no solution in sight with Republicans still constantly, relentlessly, and directly blaming Obama for this and every other perceived problem the United States finds itself in.

Even more baffling and confusing for President Obama is the fact that after the Republican House of Representatives couldn’t pass their OWN immigration bill (written solely by republicans) last Thursday (July 31st), they pleaded for Obama to take executive action to fix the current immigration problem…. This plea to Obama to use executive action was a day after the Republican House of Representatives passed the first-ever lawsuit to sue this President for using executive action were needed due to such Congressional gridlock.  Confused?  So am I…

BTW: Obama has used far less executive orders per year than his five predecessors (Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II).

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