Last week, Senate Democrats blocked a bill introduced by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and others designed to reverse the trend of certain state and local governments toward creating "sanctuaries" within which criminal aliens are shielded from the reach of immigration enforcement agents by denying police and sheriff's offices the ability to cooperate with the agents.
It was a disappointing defeat because it was a pretty good bill as such things go and, more importantly, it would have contributed to public safety because many of these criminals are recidivists who commit violent crimes, including murder, when released back to the streets by police in lieu of being handed over to the immigration authorities for removal.
Worse, it was not as if the vote didn't garner a majority — it did, 54 to 45. But under the bizarre rules permitted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, to "really" pass the bill needed 60 votes, a super-majority. Why? Because absent that super-majority, the Democrats could filibuster the rule and put it into perpetual spin, like an out-of-control dryer. McConnell says, and even said prior to being elevated to majority leader, that he doesn't favor "turning the Senate into a majoritarian institution". What a curious suggestion in a democracy. Do we need a "super-majority" to elect our president?
One suspects that by preserving the rule, McConnell is looking toward the day when Republicans might once again be in the minority, but it sure looks to me like he's hastening that if the American people can't count on solid progress toward things as basic as deporting alien felons. That, after all, is why more Republicans were elected to the Senate last go-round. The thinking is doubly flawed because there's no reason to believe that a future Democratic majority leader will be so fastidious in keeping the rule.
Be that as it may, Vitter's bill went down in flames almost exactly on party lines, with only 2 Democrats voting yes and only one Republican voting no. Interestingly, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who would have us think of him as presidential material and who is such a hawk where fighting on foreign soil is concerned, opted not to vote on the bill.
The defeat angered the families of deceased victims killed by alien criminals, who appeared in Washington to let their dissatisfaction be known.
Meanwhile, in Congress's other chamber, Rep. Joaquin Castro (R-Texas) has introduced a bill, apparently along with 50 Democratic co-sponsors, to strike the word "alien" from all federal government references, substituting instead the less precise phrase "foreign national". One of those co-sponsors, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), is quoted as saying "The term 'alien' is dehumanizing and offensive, and contributes to ... prejudice and xenophobia."
Wow. Growing up as an army brat, and throughout my adult life, I've lived and traveled in other countries for both professional and personal reasons, for long periods and short. I was, without doubt, an alien in those lands and regarded myself as that way — albeit one interested in being a polite law-abiding guest while there, something that often seems lacking here. I had no idea I was engaging in an act of such self-loathing by considering myself an "alien".
I'm glad Rep. Gallego has opened my eyes to the wrong I've been doing myself and others, and it's wonderful that he intends to rectify this. I'm hoping he can go further, though, and find a way to purge the various offensive, dehumanizing, and xenophobic dictionaries that dot the landscape by listing that vile five-letter word.
Then there's that pesky phrase in the Declaration of Independence, that "all men ... are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." It will sound so much better when government reproductions of our cherished founding document will be translated by the magic of this bill to "all men ... are endowed by their Creator with certain unforeignnationalable rights." The euphony is glorious.
It's good to know that the steadfast men and women of this Congress are going so diligently and substantively about the public's business.