In legislative terms, the new Congress's House Judiciary Committee (through its Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security) has been setting speed records in approving immigration measures and moving them to the full House for consideration:
- On March 3, the committee approved the Legal Workforce Act, which updates and breathes new life into existing law relating to employer verification of the right to work. (See here for an analysis of the bill.)
- On March 4, the committee approved the Protection of Children Act, which amends the immigration and trafficking laws relating to unaccompanied minors to address procedural flaws that became evident during the surge of tens of thousands of aliens into the Rio Grande Valley last year. (A CIS analysis of that bill is forthcoming.)
- Most recently, on March 18, the Committee approved the Michael Davis, Jr. in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act and sent it to the House for consideration. Open borders advocates are already deliberately miscasting it as a "mass deportation" bill. It's no such thing, but it does go far toward restoring credibility, common sense, and collaborative efforts between federal immigration authorities and state and local police. An excellent video by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), sponsor of the bill, can be seen here. This bill is the most recent iteration of legislation containing many of the provisions previously found in the SAFE Act, which was introduced without success into the last Congress. (For interested readers, a multi-part analysis of the SAFE Act, which forms the basis of the Davis Act, can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
While I would forecast the prospects for passage of these bills in the House of Representatives (quite possibly with amendments) as a good bet, neither I nor my colleagues at the Center are quite so sanguine about their fate in the Senate, despite the fact that it is now Republican-controlled. Even if they reached the president's desk, it's likely he would vetoed them; his executive actions (now on hold pending court review) suggest he believes the only good immigration and border controls are no immigration and border controls.
The unlikelihood of these bills being enacted is regrettable, because all of them are excellent, and just what the country — indeed the American people writ large — need to see to really believe that our political leaders have the best interests of the nation at heart where the contentious subject of immigration is concerned.
It tends to show, though, that there is no bright conservative vs. liberal dividing line on immigration, not even on illegal immigration. This is because there is a big-business and agricultural wing among otherwise conservative Republicans who see nothing wrong in either opening our borders wide to cheap, displacing labor to keep corporate interests satisfied or in pursuing neo-Bracero programs, allegedly in the interests of keeping food on the table of ordinary Americans — even if it means a large subclass of individuals living and working in the United States in near-peonage conditions with minimal health or safety protections.
But perhaps the outlook will be better for the intermediate term. Let's hope that the work on these bills isn't in vain because there is a great deal of substance in them that deserves to find its way into the law.