After a year where Congress did basically nothing of value, it is getting ready to tackle one of the most contentious topics possible: immigration. On its face, this seems encouraging. Unfortunately, childish senators are threatening to kill the bill before it even hits the floor. Worse, the bill isn’t even that great in the first place.
On Tuesday the Senate voted 85-15 to open debate on a major immigration bill that could finally give our nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship. Unfortunately, cowardly politics has yielded compromises from both sides that make nearly impossible demands of the border patrol while creating a pathway to citizenship that is way too long and demeaning. The bill is, in other words, too little, too late.
Although President Obama and Democrats have demonstrated political courage by finally fulfilling a promise to grant legal status to millions of hardworking Americans, excessive concessions to outraged conservatives mean that the bill as proposed is much less effective and much more wasteful than it could have otherwise been.
Because of conservative demands, under the bill immigrants would have to wait as long as 13 years to finally gain legal status. This is in spite of the fact that, despite their illegal status, many of them have already lived inside the United States for decades. President Obama spoke of how difficult it would be to become a citizen as if this were a good thing.
“You have to pass background checks, you have to learn English, you have to pay taxes and a penalty and then you have to go to the back of the line behind everybody who has done things the right way and have tried to come here legally,” Obama said.
Worse, the Republican push to increase border security means that the bill could increase the federal deficit substantially. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought Republicans wanted to do the opposite.) As Mohit Mookin wrote in a previous PolicyMic article, the bill “sacrifices too many resources to wasteful bulking up of border security.”
Thus, the bill — though needed — is not a good one. Unfortunately, it does not even seem likely that the bill will pass. For even if the bill does get through the Senate, it still has to get through the House. And though it seems quite possible that the Senate will approve the bill, the Republican-controlled House is sure to kill the thing as soon as it gets its hands on it.
So don’t get too excited, everyone. Although for a moment it seemed that Congress was finally going to do something substantive, reality is setting in. As usual, Congress will probably do absolutely nothing.
What a shame.