Immigration reform is making its way through the House and Senate in uniquely Republican and Democratic ways despite the promises of bipartisan support. Proving there truly may be no issue that Republicans and Democrats will want to work on together, the House is already maneuvering itself to block the Senate's sweeping overhaul bill, while saving face through piecemeal measures they are touting as "deliberative" and "confidence-inspiring."
At a breakfast on Thursday sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, congressmen promised reform before the end of the year despite the unaligned legislation of the House and the Senate. The Senate is quickly moving through sweeping overhaul being aggressively promoted by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who are leading the "Gang of Eight" whose exhaustive reform bill has already had three hearings on the Senate floor since being introduced last week.
Meanwhile the House is focusing on two specific issues being promoted by the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), whose panel oversees immigration law, and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who chairs the House subcommittee charged specifically with immigration policy. The measures would tackle agricultural immigrants and make the E-Verify employment verification system mandatory, ignoring larger issues like a path to citizenship for young immigrants brought into the country illegally by their parents.
"We do have a broken immigration system, and the House does intend to play a leading role in making sure this is solved," Congressman Goodlatte said, but his vague statement did little to indicate the strategy behind his and Rep. Gowdy's focus on two stand-alone measures as the starting point for fixing an entire system. The "drip-drip-drip" approach of the House apparently ensures deliberative and educated scrutiny of legislation by the House; however, less than half of the GOP delegation participates in information sessions about immigration policy reform.
The two measures are in fact ploys to save face when the Senate passes their comprehensive and surprisingly serious bipartisan effort. House Republicans will be able to reject the bill while still appearing supportive of the two measures being promoted by Rep. Goodlatte and Rep. Gowdy.
Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, explained this political strategy in a statement on Thursday, saying "Rep. Goodlatte knows full well there’s a broad bipartisan bill that is likely to pass the Senate and a broad bipartisan bill that is about to be introduced in the House. Rather than truly supporting these measures, he is introducing partisan piecemeal measures that went nowhere in the last Congress."
Sen. McCain and Schumer have worked extensively to produce legislation that will receive wide bipartisan support, even removing provisions they knew Republicans would run from such as a diversity visa program and ensuring Southern farming constituencies are protected. Their goal still remains to execute immigration reform that would "jolt" the House, and even potentially pressure House Republicans to support comprehensive reform through public pressure.
But the recent failure of gun control legislation leads one to wonder whether we are even capable of producing constructive legislation in any way that genuinely helps the country.
No wonder this Congress is less popular than head lice.