Saturday, May 20, 2006

Disaster, Disaster Everywhere...

Ross Kaminsky says the Republicans who voted against the Ensign Amendment banning illegal aliens from collecting Social Security benefits for the years they worked illegally are leading the party to electoral defeat. Such a divisive measure may prevent consensus and compromise, and if the Republicans end up being do-nothings on immigration as a result, it could lead to disaster at the polls in November.

Kaminsky writes, in part: "While the President tries to find a middle ground that Republicans can support, the inclusion of provisions which insult basic sensibilities of right and wrong, i.e. allowing a taxpayer-provided benefit for illegal behavior, makes that middle ground nothing but a mirage and further disunifies the Party."

He also questions what this will do to the Presidential aspirations of the senators, such as McCain, who voted to award the Social Security benefits, as it seems unlikely they would pick up enough Hispanic or Democrat votes as a result to make up for the votes they'll lose from conservatives.

As a side note, I'd love to know how the Social Security benefits will be awarded. I have some tangential knowledge of how the illegal employment process works due to reading hundreds of workers' composition deposition transcripts as part of my business. It's quite common for an illegal immigrant to have used multiple false names and Social Security numbers. It's also quite common for previous employers to have gone out of business. If an illegal immigrant has worked under, as an example, three names and three different false numbers over the years, how does he prove to the Social Security Administration that he was actually the one who made the additional contributions to each person's SS number, particularly when there is no supporting documentation such as tax returns or employer records? Is it reasonable to believe most illegal workers have maintained all their pay stubs over the years? Do we take someone's word for it that he was the one making the "contributions" to the system with another person's number or a fake number, when the contributions were predicated on fraud and identity theft in the first place?

Fred Barnes feels that if the House stands on principle for "border security first," that will also lead to electoral disaster for Republicans. I'm not so sure. There is, after all, something to be said for impressing voters by standing on principle. (Witness the ousting of big-spending Republican legislators in Pennsylvania and elsewhere last week.) On the other hand, as Kaminsky writes, if nothing at all happens, that won't bode well at the ballot box either.

Barnes contends "Enforcement-only Republicans have both political and substantive grounds for compromise. Bush and Senate Republicans have gone out of their way to fashion a bill that takes seriously their legitimate concern for security. The Senate voted for 370 miles of triple fencing along the border. It adopted English as the national language. It established tough requirements for earning citizenship. It cut the temporary worker program to 200,000 immigrants a year from 325,000."

I believe the President and Congress have started moving in the right direction, but as soon as one promising bill is passed (i.e., English as the official language) another bill (i.e., a "dueling bill" watering down English to a "unifying" language, Social Security benefits earned illegally) is passed as well.

The 370 miles of fencing is a good start and better than we have in place now, but there are hundreds of miles to go and a need to seriously address security concerns regarding the U.S. northern border, not just the southern border. There is the question of whether, as Senator Judd Gregg contends, budget money originally intended to upgrade border patrol equipment is being diverted to pay for the National Guard to assist at the border. We've also got a big future problem with continued restrictions on well-educated immigrants while allowing in many thousands of poorly educated workers.

It seems to me that most of the "compromising" expected by Barnes and others is being put at the feet of conservatives: acceptance of amnesty, guest worker programs, illegally obtained Social Security benefits. I'd like to see a little more "compromise" on the part of the President and the liberals, including RINOs, in Congress.

In the end, what happens at the polls all depends on what kind of bill is passed.

If the House and ultimately Congress pass "border enforcement very lite" and fill a bill with expensive and controversial goodies like amnesty, a guest worker program, and Social Security benefits earned for those who engaged in fraud and identity theft, I don't exactly think "the base" will be racing to the polls to re-elect members who voted for that.

On the other hand, if Congress passes a reasonable "Krauthammer and Blankley compromise" which combines very strong border enforcement (and perhaps also recognition of English as the official language of the United States) with the amnesty and guest worker program, everyone has something to take away and Congressional members and President Bush are strengthened and will do well at the polls.

Update: Mickey Kaus of Slate says that Fred Barnes is aware there is no actual "consensus" on immigration, as he claims in the column linked above, and theorizes Barnes is trying to "panic conservative House Republicans." Kaus asks "If it's really panic time, why not pressure Senate Republicans into passing a common-denominator enforcement bill?"



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