Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post had an analysis piece yesterday making the argument that the Reid-Schumer-Menendez amnesty outline shows how much the immigration debate has moved "to the right" (obviously not the proper adverb, given Grover Norquist, Linda Chavez, Dick Armey, et al., but you get the idea). Hsu clearly has a point; the Senate Democrats' proposal leads off with a long discussion of enforcement, calling for more Border Patrol agents and ICE officers, higher fines for employers of illegals, a new biometric Social Security card to be used for employment, and so on. As one of Hsu's interviewees says, "Ideas that were hotly contested in ill-fated Senate debates in 2006 and 2007 seem now to be taken for granted."
But Hsu doesn't point out the patent insincerity of the amnesty side's new-found zeal for enforcement. The only fully developed Democratic amnesty bill is in the House, HR 4321, and (as I lay out in my new Encounter Broadside) it shows in great detail how the other side would like to essentially abolish immigration enforcement. Even Hsu points out the obvious, without drawing the appropriate conclusion:
The shift is troubling to labor strategists and immigrant advocates, who for years have seen accepting tougher enforcement as a concession that would allow them to attain their goal of bringing illegal workers and their families out of the shadows.
So enforcement is a "concession" intended merely to help pass an amnesty — and you wonder why people don't trust the government to actually stick with enforcement once the last illegal has been legalized.
(And don't get me started on the "shadows" baloney: When tens of thousands of illegal aliens march in the streets demanding their "rights" — Michelle Malkin has the rundown from May Day, complete with the requisite Che posters — there aren't really any shadows to speak of.)
But the take-home point is still valid — both the discussion and reality enforcement have become more hawkish over the past few years. In fact, an example Hsu didn't cite may be even more telling: In 1999, the Clinton INS tried something new, replacing raids with audits of the personnel files of all the meatpacking plants in Nebraska to check for legal status. The initial effort worked well in getting illegals to run off, and it was supposed to be repeated regularly until the plants were weaned from their dependence on illegal labor. But the local businesses and pols went berserk, and Janet Reno was actually forced to fire the INS official who'd come up with the idea.
Fast-forward to today, when the once-untouchable strategy is the fallback position of the Obama administration.
Things are clearly moving in the right direction — but only because the public, and most of the GOP, have stood firm for enforcement and against amnesty. The instant we agree to an amnesty, the enforcement stops. Eternal vigilance is the price of immigration security.