A Personal Note About the Failed Immigration Bill

Although I have written on several occasions that our immigration and visa system is broken and in need of urgent repair, I have not been a fan of the current legislation running through the Senate, which was pronounced by all interested groups dead after the vote today:

“The most dramatic overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws in a generation was trounced this morning by a bipartisan filibuster, with the political right and left overwhelming a coalition of Republicans and Democrats who had been seeking compromise on one of the most difficult social and economic issues facing the country.”

I’ll spare you my specific viewpoints, aside from saying I’m skeptical of any government that uses the adjective “comprehensive” to describe a proposal, and the inevitable bickering that would take place in the comments afterward, but will say that the process by which this measure was initiated and was being pushed through the Senate was deeply disturbing. Backroom dealing, limiting debate on amendments, and ignoring the overwhelmingly negative opinion of the American people is not how our government is supposed to work.

It really did become a war between the People and the Senate, which was in cahoots with the Executive branch.

The Senate is also the wrong place to start this, they should stick to playing defense to the House’s offensive game. In the words of George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, to paraphrase, “the Senate is the saucer to the House’s teacup, it’s job is to cool it,” referring to legislation that initiates in the House.

I also feel, like a lot of people, that I am in a unique position to comment on this topic being an immigrant myself, although I will also add that my own personal experience with immigration is somewhat removed as I came here as a small child and did not experience the process firsthand. However, I did have to go through the process of citizenship, take an oath before a judge, and still keep the signed picture of the President that came with my certificate, protected in an envelope in a secure place. I value it greatly, and my obligations as a citizen.

My parents and my father-in-law are also immigrants to the U.S. and it was interesting to see their reaction to this bill. This is really the first time I have seen my parents motivated to act in response to an issue of government, to the point that my mother’s phone calls and letters to Senator Feinstein warranted a personal letter in response.

I gather through watching these first generation immigrants react to this process that their opposition has nothing to do with bigotry or obstinance but a sense of fairness that permeates what it means to be American to them. The idea that an entire class of people, who in their eyes are simply breaking the law, would get special treatment is unfair to them, and more importantly it devalues the hard work they went through at the hands of the legal process to become American in the first place.

In the end, isn’t it more important to have being a citizen of any country mean something to the people that do it, as opposed to it just being expedient?


9 thoughts on A Personal Note About the Failed Immigration Bill

  1. Jeff, like you I am first generation immigrant. Fiercely proud to be an American and grateful for its openness.

    But I think the best contribution I can make to the country is to make sure we not forget how good immigration has been for this country. Oscar Handlin, Pulitzer Prize winner in 1952 wrote

    ““Once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that the immigrants were American history.”

    Two subtle changes have happened in the last few decades years. We have been spolit by the white collar Japanese, Korean, Indian immigrants who started coming more recently – doctors, software engineers etc. But what made our country was the blue collar Irish, Italians, Poles, Jews.

    I want to make sure we allow blue collar workers as well…unfortunately most of that today comes from our neighboring countries to the south and from the Caribbean and we are contemptous of them. But if they did not have opportunities here do you think they would risk hostile deserts and leaky boats to come here? We need their help because our third and fifth generation immigrants (and our first generation recent immigrants) do not want to work in our orange groves or in our restuarant kitchens

    Secondly, labor has become much more mobile. When my Irish father in law (born in LA) moved back to ireland (his parents did – he was 2, I think) that was a rarity. Today the Irish and Indians who move here are going back home for opportunities there. I think our immigration rules assume people want to come here permanently. Not sure that is true any more. Labor like capital is mobile and we should encourage free movement.

    Much as we think we are getting inundated, massive migrations are happening in the EU and Russia in particular and to lesser extent Australia, Canada etc. We have a significant lead over rest of world in assimiliating immigrants. It is core competence which we risk losing in our current angst and anger.

    We are looking for leadership from a spineless Congress…but it’s for us citizens to debate.

  2. Jeff, forgot to include a point on the governance issue. Understand your being upset about an aggressive Senate…but the bigger failure is the House and the Senate could not hammer out a compromise. Now it will likely hand around till the next President who would be stupid to touch it in his/her first year.

    Politics is cut throat – I thought they would have given the Prez at least one domestic victory and something to salvage his place in history.

    So the issue will just fester for 2+ years. And we will end up hundreds of individual local and state “solutions” on immigration – a matter which is clearly a federal issue…

    that to me is a bigger constituional mess…

  3. Vinnie,
    This issue has been festering for 2 decades (3 if you include the period leading up to the failed 1986 amnesty). A new president isn’t going to change the fundamental dynamics that drive this issue: secure borders are important, the federal government has not lived up to previous promises, and allowing a group of people to benefit from coming to the U.S. illegally is unfair (and that matters to Americans).

    I disagree with you on your comment about the House and Senate failing to agree to a compromise, this really doesn’t have anything to do with compromise but rather confidence. The American people don’t have confidence in the federal government when it comes to doing what they say they will do. It didn’t even get close to the House so how can you suggest it failed because of a failure to compromise between the Senate and the House?

  4. and Jeff our social security, deficits, telecom infrastructure, education – and many more things you can point to neglect going back decades. But what the Feds are supposed to do is tackle complex issues like that every few years. The system is not fair in so many ways and on each topic we can keep blaming a group which benefited more than others – and never move forward. Do you know how many tax evaders the IRS cuts 15/20/25% deals of what they owe in years of back taxes? Not fair to the rest of us who pay 100% taxes. Why do we then give them “amnesty”?

    I am all for making illegal aliens compensate the system for back taxes, pay a fine – I am also for more border controls. What I do not like is this limbo and local governments or vigilante groups doing their own things…

    BTW – every Irish, Pole, Italian who entered in the first half of the 20th century was technically “illegal” and they made this country…

  5. Vinnie,
    I’m not going to argue with you about this… I’m not even making an argument for or against the issue other than to point out the process McCain/Kennedy/Bush/Graham/Martinez used to craft this grand compromise was deeply flawed.

    PS- I don’t have to press 1 for Italian either…

  6. Jeff, and I do not want to abuse your forum…but I am not sure we disagree much.

    I too agree the aggressive stance of the Senate was wrong…nonetheless we have a situation where towns and groups are making their own rules…that’s not right either…

    …I too resent going through Miami where if your name is Hispanic sounding they don’t sometimes page you in English at all…

    but you know what we have plenty of Cuban, Puerto Rican service providers where we live, and none in my family speak Spanish…they have to speak English to earn our dollars.

    Could we end up with a Quebec? Possible, but not if we keep pointing out the Italians, the Poles, the Koreans all had to learn English…

  7. We probably don’t disagree much (as is often the case).

    I want reform as well, and have said as much in reference to the visa system. Like a significant majority of Americans, I want my government to enforce laws already enacted, as opposed to using parliamentary tricks to look like they are doing one thing while doing another altogher, e.g. authorizing an action while at the same time declining to fund it, or funding it but redirecting the funds to something altogether different.

    I’ll support a bill that aligns with my priorities, enforcing border security first. I’m willing to compromise on a lot (even if it does result in accelerated and undisputed social security insolvency), in that order.

    I also want representatives of Congress who have to stand in front of their district and defend their vote leading the charge.

  8. Jeff, Vinnie,

    You’re both right. We have all been polarized by our political/religious view of the world around us.

    Our government is trying to hide the fact that we as a country have failed to deal with illegals for thirty-plus years (I’m probably older than you guys).

    Now, they are a vital part of our economy; even if we could round ’em up and deport them, the economic effect would be devastating. However, we have not subjected them to the standards we had in generations past. Drive through a Hispanic neighborhood. Do you hear English being spoken? No. Do you see trash and junk everywhere? Yes.

    This is why the average guy is so pissed off. They have no desire whatsoever to assimilate, they just want your money.

    This NOT what it means to be an American.

  9. OBTW,

    Your ancestors came through a gateway, today they just walk through a tunnel, hide in a truck, or climb a (lame) fence.

    Do you see the difference?


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