Umpteenth “Last Ditch” Immigration Effort Floundering

Published on May 2nd, 2014

By Joe Guzzardi
May 2, 2014

The House immigration debate that’s been stubbornly hanging around since the Senate passed its bill last June just won’t go away. Diehards have schemed for months for ways to force a floor vote on H.R. 15.

The latest attempt came when embattled California Republican incumbent Jeff Denham tried to attach his ENLIST Act to the broader, must-pass 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. Denham’s provision, supported by House Immigration Subcommittee chair Trey Gowdy and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, would allow non-citizen aliens, many of them illegal immigrants, to serve in the military and to eventually become legal permanent residents.

Denham’s pushing his bill hard because he could face a strong Democratic re-election challenge in his 40 percent Hispanic Modesto district. In a rare moment of congressional immigration sanity, however, Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon slammed the door on Denham’s idea. McKeon said that his committee doesn’t have the authority to give green cards to illegal immigrants just because they may serve in the military. Immigration, continued McKeon, must be debated in the Judiciary Committee. 

To move on Denham’s bill, the armed services panel would need to initiate a sequential referral request, and obtain a waiver from Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). But that’s unlikely. According to his aide, as a matter of policy, McKeon doesn’t do sequential referrals regardless of the type of legislation. 

Undaunted, Denham promised to review his remaining options which include to offer his immigration bill, unrelated to national security, as an amendment on the House floor during the full chamber debate.

The odds against ENLIST are overwhelming. Denham’s bill ultimately depends on GOP leadership’s interpretation of it. The House’s conservative Republican Conference is resistant to supporting legislative efforts to rewrite immigration law, especially bills that include legalizing illegal immigrants. And, other huge obstacle, if the ENLIST Act makes it into the defense authorization bill in committee, it could sink the measure on the floor.

Beyond Denham’s own self-serving political motivations for ENLIST, other concerns abound. First, proving beyond a doubt the circumstances under which an individual came to the U.S. would be hard.

Second, the wisdom of having foreign nationals serving in the U.S. military is, at best, questionable. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) expressed his reservations by saying that when someone goes into the military, he takes an oath to protect and defend the U.S. and its Constitution. But Gohmert wondered how someone can raise his right hand and swear to defend Constitution, when he’s breaking the very laws he’s vowing to uphold. 

Third and most important, if the ENLIST Act passes, it would lead to conference with the Senate on its disastrous bill that legalizes and gives work authorization to 12 million illegal aliens and which would more than double legal immigration within the first decade. In conference, team Obama with its frontline players Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer would make mincemeat out of well-intentioned Republicans, assuming there are any.

What Republicans should do, then, is refuse move on immigration until the powerful groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic lobbies give up on their destructive version of reform and after enforcement measures are put securely in place.

Only then should Congress discuss a sensible approach to immigration reform that would exclude more visas for skilled and low-skilled foreign-born workers. America’s stagnant economy has a worker-glut in all employment categories, and cannot absorb more job seekers.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]

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