Do-Nothing? You Know-Nothing

COMMENTARY Immigration

Do-Nothing? You Know-Nothing

Jun 8th, 2007 2 min read
Robert B. Bluey

Senior Vice President, Communications

Rob Bluey is senior vice president for communications at The Heritage Foundation and editor in chief of The Daily Signal.

What John McCain isn't telling you about the immigration bill.

Senator John McCain wants you to believe that "doing nothing" on immigration reform amounts to "silent amnesty." It's his way of making the case for a bill that offers little in the way of new security measures while granting amnesty to 12 million illegal aliens.

In a speech on Monday, McCain said, "Pandering for votes on this issue, while offering no solution to the problem, amounts to doing nothing. And doing nothing is silent amnesty."

There's a simple response to this argument: Why do nothing?

Indeed, national polls show the vast majority of Americans want the federal government to do something: Enforce existing immigration law, for starters. And complete the border-security initiatives that Congress has already approved.

If "silent amnesty" arises from doing nothing, then silent amnesty can occur only if the Bush administration fails to enforce existing law.

Supporters of the Senate bill argue that the United States has a choice between two things - the amnesty deal or mass deportation. It's a false choice.

The third and best option is to enforce existing law and scrap any elements of the Senate bill that forgive and reward law-breaking immigrants. It's an option gaining support among the American public. A Rasmussen poll out yesterday found 49 percent of respondents would rather have no bill at all than what the Senate is currently debating.

Consider the Secure Fence Act signed into law last year. It authorizes the government to build 700 miles of reinforced fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. Yet one year later, only a few miles of fencing have actually been constructed. The fact that the Bush administration hasn't made this a priority has led many Americans to believe that Washington isn't serious about tightening border security.

For the White House to convince skeptics that it is serious about staunching the flow of illegal immigrants, it must first show it can get the job done. Building a fence and tracking down the more than 600,000 visa holders who have ignored deportation orders must become top priorities. Only after the administration accomplishes those feats will most Americans be willing to consider a "comprehensive" immigration initiative.

McCain's bill is full of provisions offensive to the concept of the rule of law. It grants de facto amnesty to virtually every illegal immigrant in the country. It allows law enforcement only a cursory 24-hour window in which to run background checks on illegals applying for probationary visas. It lets people already subject to deportation orders stay in this country and seek visas. It gives taxpayer-funded legal representation to illegal agricultural workers, and converts immigration-enforcement officers into amnesty-distribution agents.

In short, this bill is full of goodies for illegal aliens. "Silent amnesty" is far tougher on those who flout our nation's laws. No wonder this nation's "silent majority" is howling in outrage over the Senate proposal.

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at

First appeared in the National Review Online