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May 21, 2007

Kennedy Dupes Republicans on Immigration Bill

By

The world's greatest deliberative body, the U.S. Senate, is expected to move with blazing speed this week to vote on a massive immigration reform bill that grants amnesty to 12 million illegal aliens. It doesn't matter that no bill even existed prior to Friday or that senators were given little time to read the 1,000-page tome. Like it or not, America is about to be saddled with Sen. Ted Kennedy's solution for immigration reform.

Chief negotiator for the Amnesty Now crowd, Kennedy exacted so many concessions from the White House and Senate Republicans that the bill ought to carry his name. If you thought the Kennedy-crafted No Child Left Behind Act was devastating, well, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Conservatives will be especially disappointed. They've already watched President Bush sell out to Kennedy on education and Medicare reform. But Bush's collusion with the Massachusetts Democrat on immigration reform threatens to alienate them permanently. Heaven forbid that Bush try to reform anything else in his remaining 20 months in office.

Of course, the President doesn't bear all the responsibility. Many Republicans in Congress are equally responsible for failing to protect the principles that voters sent them to Washington to defend. Conservatives have come to expect such behavior from Republicans such as Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania moderate. The shocker is that conservative Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) went along with it.

The GOP's failure on immigration reform is most astounding because the issue is crystal clear: There are those who follow the law and those who break it. If one issue galvanized conservatives, this was it. Some have even traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to safeguard our country. Two Republican members of the U.S. House, Reps. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Tom Tancredo (Colo.), launched long-shot presidential bids because of the issue.

As defenders of the rule of law, conservatives have always maintained that anyone wanting to enter the United States -- much less reap the benefits of citizenship -- must do so legally. The deal that Kennedy negotiated violates that principle.

More than 20 years ago, President Ronald Reagan and Congress experimented with amnesty. It failed miserably. Nearly 3 million illegal aliens were legalized in 1986. Former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, who served under Reagan when the law was enacted, regrets the deal today.

Unfortunately, Bush is repeating the mistake -- only this time the consequences are even more significant. The deal cut by the White House grants 12 million illegal aliens immediate and indefinite amnesty.

As Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said last week, "This rewards people who broke the law with permanent legal status, and puts them ahead of millions of law-abiding immigrants waiting to come to America. I don't care how you try to spin it, this is amnesty.

Kyl, the lead conservative involved in the immigration negotiations, tried to spin it. "I think because of the influence that I and other conservatives brought to the table this time, the bill is far more conservative, more restrictive than the bill that passed last year," he told CNN's Lou Dobbs after the compromise was reached.

That's not saying much, especially since Kyl's partner last year on immigration legislation, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), was among the first to criticize the compromise.

Cornyn expressed hope that senators would have an opportunity to amend the bill once it reached the Senate floor. But with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) eager to pass it before senators leave town for their week-long Memorial Day vacation, conservatives face an uphill battle.

That's one reason 15 conservative senators began demanding last month that they have at least a week to review the bill before it's brought up for debate. They also wanted it posted online in order to give the public an opportunity to critique and analyze it before a vote.

Almost as bad as what's in the 1,000-page bill is the way Reid plans to ram it through the Senate, skirting any semblance of meaningful debate in favor of political expediency. It begs the question: How fast does the average senator read, much less deliberate these days?

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

First appeared in TownHall.com

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