Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What Will the Immigration Compromise Look Like?

Well, seems that lots of folks are now convinced that an immigration bill featuring an amnesty will not be enacted this year, because opposition is too strong among House Republicans. My mom told me to avoid self praise, but I will indulge myself this time, and note that I predicted that on April 7. I suspect that others predicted it earlier, but who has time to do that kind of research?

Now the question becomes what happens next. Will Congressional Republicans come together to pass a bill, will Senate Democrats block it, and will the President sign it?

First off, I think a House-Senate compromise is likely. Even Senate Republicans are starting to see the handwriting on the wall, and recognize that an amnesty is politically dangerous, and probably not attainable with the House, anyway. So will a compromise have anything more than border enforcement? I would say it's likely that it will. House leaders and others have keyed upon the 'path to citizenship' as the problem. That leaves open a guestworker program, which would allow participation by those currently here illegally - perhaps something along the lines of the Pence proposal.

Pence's proposal deals with the problem of the illegal immigrant population, will have significant backing among House conservatives, and does not provide the path to citizenship. Further, the majority of illegal immigrants don't want to become US citizens per se, they simply want to work here - so outside of their liberal spokespeople, most would probably be content with this system. Also, it would allow the President to claim a victory on the issue. And it has the virtue of being opposed by Tom Tancredo. This is not meant to cast aspersions on Tancredo, but the President wants to be seen as one who rises above the extremes of the debate, and whatever you think of Tancredo, he represents one extreme. If Tom Tancredo opposes the final product, it will enhance the ability of the President to say he's forged a compromise that doesn't make anyone entirely happy.

Will Senate Democrats block the bill? Well, I hope so, because I think the Pence idea will probably be as politically popular as an amnesty was often cited as being. Further, a Senate filibuster would put the Democrats on the side of blocking a popular, achievable, reform on a priority issue - immigration. Still, if some of the extreme liberal leaders oppose this strongly, and can get Ted Kennedy and others on their side, a filibuster is possible. This might be the most politically advantageous outcome for Republicans - something that at last motivates their base.

Will the President sign the bill? It's probably as close as he will come to what he wants. It will have significant enforcement measures as well as a worker program that ought to be effective at reducing the illegal population.

So my next prediction is that the President will sign a compromise along these lines in July - after the Mexican Presidential election.

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