Amnesty be­fore the Se­nate — again

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The de­bate over il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is re­turn­ing to the Se­nate floor, with an emer­gency ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill to fund mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Be­fore the Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee ap­proved its ver­sion of the bill on May 15, Sens. Dianne Fe­in­stein, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, and Larry Craig, Idaho Repub­li­can, suc­cess­fully at­tached an amend­ment that would grant tem­po­rary le­gal sta­tus to an es­ti­mated 1.35 mil­lion il­le­gal-alien farm­work­ers over the next five years. This num­ber jumps to at least 3 mil­lion when chil­dren and spouses are fac­tored in. More­over, ac­cord­ing to the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form, th­ese work­ers would be im­mune from pros­e­cu­tion for crimes such as steal­ing some­one’s So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber. The amend­ment passed on a 17-12 vote over the op­po­si­tion of Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Robert Byrd, West Vir­ginia Demo­crat.

Grant­ing blan­ket amnesty is wrong. For the past year, Mrs. Fe­in­stein has been push­ing leg­is­la­tion called AgJobs, which would have given il­le­gal-alien farm­work­ers a path to cit­i­zen­ship. Un­der Fe­in­steinCraig, sheep herders, goat herders and dairy work­ers would re­ceive a path to cit­i­zen­ship, but the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of il­le­gal-alien work­ers would only be per­mit­ted to re­main in the United States for five years. That is what ad­vo­cates of the leg­is­la­tion are say­ing. But if past ex­pe­ri­ence is any in­di­ca­tion, in five years, the “tem­po­rary” amnesty will be­come per­ma­nent, af­ter mem­bers of Congress hear com­plaints from agribusi­ness groups and farm­work­ers’ unions that it would be un­fair to grant amnesty to one group of il­le­gals while deny­ing it to an­other. And if open-borders ad­vo­cates con­trol Congress or the pres­i­dency, there will un­doubt­edly be ef­forts to al­low farm­work­ers to bring their fam­i­lies to the United States af­ter five years.

Per­haps the most dis­turb­ing thing about the Fe­in­stein-Craig mea­sure is the fact that it was at­tached to an emer­gency bill fund­ing mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that if the funds are not ap­proved by Me­mo­rial Day, the De­fense De­part­ment would have to de­lay pay­checks be­gin­ning June 15. Al- though the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion has yet to say whether such a pro­vi­sion would trig­ger a veto of the war-fund­ing bill, it could well make it im­pos­si­ble for the mea­sure to pass the Se­nate. It was less than one year ago that the Se­nate went through a wrench­ing de­bate over amnesty for il­le­gal aliens and re­jected it — with the ma­jor­ity of Se­nate Repub­li­cans join­ing fresh­man Demo­cratic law­mak­ers in­clud­ing Sens. Jim Webb (Vir­ginia), Claire McCaskill (Mis­souri) and Jon Tester (Mon­tana) in killing it. The Fe­in­steinCraig amend­ment should be stripped from the war-fund­ing mea­sure. They are two is­sues that should be ad­dressed by sep­a­rate leg­is­la­tion. Fund­ing the war is an ur­gent mat­ter. Mea­sur­ing yeas and neas on amnesty is not.

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