It has been depressing to listen to Sens. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and McCain (R-Ariz.) talk about the "border surge" they hatched in order to con — er, persuade — reluctant Republicans to vote for the immigration reform bill.
"This is the toughest, strongest, most expensive border provision that we have had," huffed Sen. Chuck Schumer, pretending to believe that the surge will actually become law and double the size of the Border Patrol while doing little to improve interior security.
At least McCain came close to acknowledging his own disbelief. In a fleeting moment of straight talk, he said, "I mean this is not only sufficient it is well over sufficient. We'll be the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall."
The Gang of Eight's new motto appears to be: "Nothing Succeeds like Excess."
But rather than dwell on their cynical willingness to do anything to cut a deal and get a bill passed, I'd like to cite yesterday's speeches from two men who actually believe what they say. They have presented their opposing views of the bill with consistency and integrity.
First, there was Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who has been fighting for more than a decade for the Dream Act. One of the many provisions within the Gang of Eight's bill, it would provide legal status to illegal immigrants who came here in their youth.
"Their stories are amazing and inspiring," said Durbin. "At a meeting with President Obama two weeks ago we talked about the Dream Act. And he said that when the dreamers came into my office and told their stories, he said there wasn't a dry eye in the room. … I have the greatest faith in them."
Durbin has paired his advocacy for sweeping legalization with a defense of American workers. He is one of the few senators who have fought to limit the bill's provisions for employers to hire foreign workers. He remains dissatisfied with some of those provisions. But he is still committed to the bill. "There are parts of it that I don't like at all; there are parts of it that I think are great," he said. "That's the nature of a compromise, and that's what we're expected to do."
Then there was Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the Southern conservative who has emerged as a populist defender of unemployed Americans. Sessions warns that the immigration bill would cause them grave damage by expanding the job competition not only from new temporary workers but also with those 11 million illegal immigrants whose liberation from "the shadows" will allow them to seek more desirable jobs.
"Should we bring in more immigrants than we can absorb, causing wages to decline for American citizens, making it harder for American citizens to find work?" Sessions asked. "Do we take those people who are not finding jobs and do we now then place them on the welfare rolls and put them on a government subsistence program when they've been independent and able to prosper previously in the private sector. What is the right thing for America, colleagues? … I think we have to think about that. … We just simply have got to give first priority to those to whom we owe our allegiance."
"People don't like to talk about it, but I do believe it's honest and true," Sessions said. "And a good immigration policy should be focused on a number of things. It should be focused first on the national interests, the interests of the American working people, whether citizens or lawful immigrants."
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