Amnesty Advocates Discuss Legislative Strategy

By David North on June 28, 2010

Legalization advocates had what sounded like a pretty frank discussion of their legislative strategy, at the 7th Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference in Washington Friday.

The annual summertime gathering of pro-open borders policy wonks and some immigration lawyers took place at the Georgetown University Law School, and was sponsored by the Migration Policy Institute and the Catholic Immigration Network Inc.

Leading the discussion was Jeanne A. Butterfield, now a Senior Advisor to the big open borders advocacy group, the National Immigration Forum; she had been for years the top staff member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

After admitting that the chances for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) were remote in the current session of Congress – "there are only 25 to 30 legislative days left, and there are the budgets, the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice, and perhaps some energy legislation," Ms. Butterfield said, "but maybe we can get a piece or two, the Dream Act and/or the AgJobs bill."

"What we do not want is a symbolic vote in the Senate [for comprehensive reform] that lets the White House say 'see, we tried, and the Republicans blocked it'," she continued.

She also expressed opposition to any version of the Dream Act (which would legalize the presence of illegal aliens who entered the nation as children and then subsequently enrolled in American colleges) that was weighted down with too many enforcement amendments.

She discussed the positions of several individual Republican senators, saying that Richard Lugar of Indiana was the only GOP cosponsor of the Dream Act, and that three Republicans leaving the chamber this year Judd Gregg (NH), Robert Bennett (UT), and George Voinovich (OH), might, in the end, support the Dream Act.

She also speculated that Lindsay Graham (SC), who is very close to John McCain (AZ), might start cooperating with the Democrats on immigration matters after McCain's primary battle ends in August. The implication was that Graham would not want to do anything in the next few months that would complicate McCain's primary campaign against former Rep. J.D. Hayworth for the GOP Senate nomination in that state.

Butterfield reminded her audience that the immigration acts of 1986, 1990, and 1996 all were passed late in the session. She did not, however, speak specifically of the prospects of a lame duck legislative session this year.

The "half-a-loaf is better than nothing" metaphor was not used in this discussion, but she did suggest that the Dream Act might set in motion enough momentum to bring about comprehensive immigration reform in the future.

As to legislative prospects in 2011, she said they would be much less encouraging if
"Lamar Smith (R -TX) resumes his chairmanship." The congressman, a restrictionist, would presumably become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (which includes the immigration subcommittee) were the House to go Republican.

As to why CIR had not made progress so far this year, Butterfield cited four reasons: 1) lack of effective White House leadership, 2) Republican obstruction, 3) too little political power of the advocates, and 4) external events. The election of Scott Brown (R-MA) to the late Ted Kennedy's seat to was cited as the principal external event.

Butterfield did not discuss either why she supported CIR, or its legislative components; she apparently assumed that she was speaking with knowledgeable friends of the legislation, so she concentrated on tactics. She said that "we sent 73 organizers out to 66 congressional districts" to drum up support for CIR; she did not discuss what entities were paying the organizers.

During Q&A session I asked the panel why the discussion of various immigration matters did not include any mentions of the total size of the American population, "since we all know that virtually all population growth in the U.S. is caused by immigration, and because a larger population makes larger demands on both the environment and the infrastructure."

The principal reply came from Doris Meissner of MPI, the former INS Commissioner. She said that "historically America has had no appetite for a population policy . . . it is not appropriate to place those concerns on the immigration process."