In mid-summer, the Senate passed off the hot potato S. 744 immigration bill to the House. Feeling pressure to deliver on something, even if it were token, the GOP tentatively opened discussions on the Kids Act as a bill that could possibly win House bipartisan support. Although yet unwritten and with only sketchy details available, the Kids Act is envisioned as a DREAM Act variation.
But the DREAM Act, despite having been first introduced more than a decade ago, could never get the necessary votes and has since become toxic. The Kids Act, on the other hand, would be stand-alone legislation and has gotten positive comments from Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) who favor it, at least in concept. Backing from such influential Republicans should be a good starting point for the House. But weeks later, the Kids Act is rarely mentioned and looks dead.
What’s happened and why Kids has disappeared underlines the major hurdle immigration advocates face. While many of those high schoolers that Kids would directly help might favor the legislation even though it may not lead to citizenship, a GOP stickler, advocates are unwilling to take less than an absolutist position. Their all-or-nothing, citizenship-or-bust stance often results in just that – nothing.
The crux of advocates’ problem is that as vocal as the pro-immigration lobby is, it hasn’t developed a credible history of acting in the best interest of the people it supposedly represents. While lobbyists insist on a path to citizenship, the illegal immigrant community would accept less, namely legal work authorization.
The best example of advocate stubbornness is the Senate bill itself. The Gang of 8 passed legislation that it knew would not stand a chance in the House. Instead of tossing the House an amendment or two that it might have been able to take to conference and develop into something grander, the Senate passed a totally unacceptable bill.
The Gang, its White House co-authors, and the Hispanic and Beltway lobbies demanded citizenship before enforcement. But most of the 11 million illegal aliens would happily have settled for legal status which would have allowed them to work and possibly upgrade their jobs.
Advocates’ hardliner positions are good for immigration reform patriots. The immigration lobby and the immigrants lose under the current strategy. When they lose, we win.