"What do you want to do with me?" asked confessed illegal alien Jose Antonio Vargas in the most striking (and most egocentric) line at yesterday's immigration hearing of the Senate's Judiciary Committee.
Vargas' testimony, and the hearts-and-flowers reaction of most of the Democratic senators to it, dominated the mood of the pre-Valentine's Day session and all-too-accurately reflected the approach of most of the senators to the complex immigration issues before the committee.
Jose Antonio Vargas
Another clue as to the policy positions the Senate may soon take on "comprehensive immigration reform", the subject of the hearing, was the fact that none of the senators raised any objections to the presence at the witness table of someone who has admitted to numerous criminal violations and has no legal right to be present in the country, much less in the committee room.
Vargas was treated by most of the senators as a rock star who graciously devoted a few minutes to public service. Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) lauded his presence and called him a "whistle blower".
The witness, in turn, acted as if his life story was all that was needed to advance his point of view, without any need to present any other facts or figures. He had drawn to the hearing room a number of his Filipino relatives and supporters, including his old high school principal and the people who apparently helped fund his college education. (I know that because the witness said so.)
Continuing the inward-looking presentation, he complained that the system had prevented him from seeing his mother for 20 years. Clearly an illegal can leave the country with no problems to see his relatives, but he could not return. But why could not his mother have come to the United States on a tourist visa? He did not explain and no one asked.
It was a highly successful "all about me" performance.
The only bit of rationality in connection with Vargas' performance came when Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) asked him if he agreed, given the immense number of people who want to come to the United States that the United States should have an immigration policy and should enforce it. This drew a muffled "yes" from Vargas, who is, among other things, an ex-reporter for the Washington Post.
Earlier in the day, DHS Secretary Napolitano gave one of her smooth presentations about why "comprehensive immigration reform" was needed, and she comfortably fended off, or ignored, the hostile questions of the GOP senators, while feeding on the soft questions from the Democrats present.
As suggested in an earlier blog of mine on how to rig the arrangements for a committee hearing the timing of the hearing was such that the DHS Secretary dominated the first two hours of the session, when many senators (and the press) were present, while the other five witnesses had to share no more than an hour and 20 minutes, at a time when many of the senators had left the room.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, argued in her testimony that while the last amnesty had been a major success in terms of the number of illegals legalized, the promised enforcement provisions were never implemented. She said that there was no reason to believe that the same situation would not happen again if the administration's program were to be written into law.
Chris Crane, the president of the union of Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees, and an ICE deportation officer stationed in Utah, presented chapter and verse on how his union members were discouraged from enforcing the law and in some cases disciplined for doing so. He further stated that none of the investigators had been consulted on the drafting of a new immigration law, though many representatives of special interests had been consulted.
The other two witnesses, Steve Case, founder of the once highly successful AOL, and Janet Murguia, President of the National Council of LaRaza, both tried to argue that neither represented a "special interest".
Case, who in earlier years might have expected rock star treatment, was fawned over by several senators, but was one of a group of five witnesses. He made the argument that more needs to be done to attract and keep high-tech alien workers. Murguia called for a sweeping legalization program for the 11 million or so illegals.
This was the first time that the new Democratic senator from Hawaii, Mazie Hirono, appeared at an immigration hearing; her point of view, as might be expected, was exactly that of the rest of the Democrats present. She was born in Japan to a U.S. citizen mother, is a lawyer, is a former Lt. Governor of her state, and is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives.