My plan had been to wait until I'd read the recent bipartisan Senate compromise bill on immigration, until I realized the Senate apparently plans to vote this week before Senators have even read the bill. In fact, even today the final version is not yet drafted, so no one really knows what's in it. If a Senator can vote for something he knows nothing about, then I can certainly opine, as well. Since facts are in short supply regarding this bill, it is useful to look at who the supporters are, and compare them to the opponents, always looking toward the motivation of each side.
Amongst the supporters: the Bush Administration, most Democrats, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and some Republicans such as Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The motivation of the Bush Administration is easy to deduce. Bush has always been a little leftward on immigration, I think because he views it as a demographic plus long-term for the GOP, and also because he really believes his rhetoric. Besides his judicial legacy, with the permanency of his tax cuts in doubt and with the failure of his Social Security reform, immigration reform would be viewed by opinion-makers as one of Bush's major accomplishments. President Bush is human and therefore not immune to such fluff, especially at a time when he is steadfast in the face of ferocious opposition to his foreign policy objectives.
With regard to most Democrats, again, their support is predictable. Most national Democrats will reflexively support any measure that results in increased numbers of low-income government dependent voters, as this bill will. Only the most left-wing radical Democrats would oppose this bill, and then on the grounds that it doesn't let in enough immigrants. Increased immigration fits well into their philosophy of "sharing" and redistributing wealth, and more immigrants means bigger budgets for entitlements such as Medicaid, Social Security, and children's services. Bigger budgets mean bigger taxes and bigger bureaucracy and bigger government--these are Democratic fundamentals.
I think the Chamber of Commerce, along with some other business interests, views this bill as a way to ensure a ready supply of lower-wage workers, especially in service sectors. I'm not in disagreement with much of their reasoning, but, on the other hand, these are the same guys advocating increasing ties with Communist China and who are building factories and business partnerships with the Chinese. Their aim is economic gain, but I can't shake the feeling that in dealing with folks like the Chinese, we are dealing with potential enemies. I fear that 50 years from now our children and grandchildren will face a Chinese threat that we helped fund. Forgive my roundabout process, but my point is that I'm not convinced the Chamber of Commerce has our national interest at heart--they have big business interests at heart, and those two interests are not always concordant.
Finally, there are the Republican supporters of the bill. A few, I think, are motivated by principle, but others are simply interested in favorable publicity or are appeasers always willing to compromise to "make a deal." Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the Republican negotiators, has never met a camera he didn't like, and he is way too quick to sponsor compromises that sell out principles. John McCain typifies this group well. These, then, are the players in support of the immigration bill.
What about the opposition? Amongst the GOP Presidential candidates, most except McCain have come out against this compromise. This tells me that these guys have read the pulse of GOP primary voters and detected real concern. I was particularly interested to see Fred Thompson quickly come out in opposition with a well-reasoned article which can be found on the RealClearPolitics website. Countering the Chamber of Commerce support for the compromise is the National Federation of Independent Business. The NFIB might have been expected to represent the same interests as the Chamber of Commerce, but they have instead come out against the bill because of its punitive measures against small businesses and because of the regulatory burden it places on them.
On balance, just looking at the compromise's supporters and opponents, I'm pretty comfortable in opposing this bill. It seems to me that the merits of a guest-worker program ought to be subjugated to the imperative of securing our national border. Why can't the government come to the American people and say, " We've reduced illegal entry into this country by 80% over the last two years, and every illegal immigrant who commits a felony is being deported. Now that we've secured our borders and established the rule of law, here is our proposal for a guest worker program." This seems eminently more reasonable to me.
I hope conservatives can muster the groundswell necessary to stop this compromise. I'm optimistic that if we can, then perhaps progress can be made in enforcing our current immigration laws. If that happens, then I'm all for hashing out an agreement that allows for reasonable immigration. Right now, though, we're too busy getting the cart before we have a horse. And this is one ugly cart.