The Legend of Wooley Swamp

What ever happened to nuance? Jabberwocky is being spewed up by the left and right as they try to drag us into their Wonderlands. This blog charts a path out of this swamp of simple truths and false certainties. And from time to time, it'll be a place for more light-hearted musings.

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Location: Palms - L.A, California

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Amend-a-Palooza: Orange Senate Crush

As I write this, the Senate is voting on yet another amendment to the comprehensive immigration bill. You could interpret this as a positive step since the bill was basically declared dead around Easter. You would not be entirely wrong.

As Charles Babington reports in today’s WP, some kind of bill seems likely to emerge from the Senate this week. But all’s not fair that seems fair:

“Backers of President Bush's bid to revamp immigration laws scored another small victory in the Senate yesterday, but they are increasingly concerned about a House Republican policy that could block final agreement even if a bipartisan majority is within reach.
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's insistence that major legislation reach the House floor only if it appears to be backed by a "majority of the majority" could throw a high hurdle in front of efforts to reach a House-Senate compromise on immigration later this year, lawmakers said. Hastert (R-Ill.) has invoked the policy in blocking bills that appeared likely to win approval from more than half of the House's 435 members but less than half of its 231 Republicans.”

Still, for the moment it seems more relevant to mention the avalanche of amendments that each Senator continues to introduce. To clarify, the purpose of these is to add or subtract something from the main bill - and to make the Senator look active. It’s kind of like a bulletin board full of post-it notes, and currently it looks as chaotic as can be. According to the Senate website, there are currently 147 amendments on the table.

The latest one, offered by Senator Feinstein of California, introduced the notion of an ‘Orange Card’ – playing off the good will of the ol' Green Card. The color orange is a beautiful one and given that it’s the color of some U.S. prison jumpsuits, far too many German sun worshippers (Read that article! Seriously!) and a TOTAL confusion when it comes to ribbons, perhaps it is time that it took on a different, simpler meaning.

It was meant to provide a simple, one-tier path to citizenship for the undocumented - and supposed to have some kind of bar code!? Senator Feinstein tries her best to be a hardliner at times, but in this case she's on to a good, common sense idea. You see, the current version of the bill proposes dividing illegal immigrants into three arbitrary categories: those in the U.S. for five years or longer, up to two and a half years, and those less than that. Different rules would apply to each group, with the latter basically being told to leave ASAP. It goes without saying that besides being arbitrary, it will be very hard to prove which category someone belongs to. We are talking about the undocumented after all....

I used the past tense above on purpose as the amendment was just rejected (37-61). Too bad - in my book her one-tier path to citizenship beats the three-tiered one - but this was done in the spirit of saving the overall bill. The three tiered approach was a major component of the compromise that saved the bill from an early burial.

Lots of other nuggets have already been up for debate, e.g. the use of the National Guard on the border - passed with a whopping 83-10! Republicans from Utah dissenting as did the Vermonters; and the building of more fencing along the Southwest border – passed by 83-16, led by the efforts of the junior Senator from the non-border state of Alabama, Jeff Sessions.

National Guardsmen and Fencing: sounds ominous. But these are concessions to the restrictionists that will not totally decimate the rest of the bill. The Guard will "only" provide temporary logistical support to the Border Patrol, and there will be no fence à la Robert Samuelson.

Another amendment by Senator Jeff Bingaman from the border state above all others, New Mexico, is a very unnecessary one indeed. Its intent is to further limit the number of guest-workers and it also looks likely to pass. This too is meant to assuage the nativists. But all it really means is that more people will remain in the shadows as 'illegals' instead of becoming legal 'guest-workers'. Great, I mean, they won't leave....So this numerical cut - from 325,000 to 200,000/year- serves no real purpose other than catering to delusional restrictionists.

In the next few days, I plan to post something about the most controversial amendments, two competing ones that both passed last week. They deal with the role of the English language and as such touch upon the crux of immigration, assimilation and what it means to be American. Plenty of hysteria and sanity to relate here. At a later stage, I hope to compare this with becoming e.g. German or Swedish.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sad to hear the news about Bingaman's Amendment to the bill. I don't have the power of numbers to back up "assmilation rates," but I can guarantee you that the U.S. economy can absorb more than 200,000 immigrants per year. I also know that given the various needs in the US economy, low skilled immigrants will not settle in solely one region (i.e. the Southwest, West or West Coast). For example, see the rise in number of immigrants in places like Liberal, Kansas and Iowa.

I look forward to the discussion on the English language amendments. What do they mean practically? Will it enforce English in schools or increase ESL funding?


10:40 AM  

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