[guest post by JVW]
Also writing in NRO, Andy McCarthy urges the rejection of the border bill:
On X/Twitter, Fox News’ superb reporter Bill Melugin has a good analysis of the long-awaited Senate border legislation. It is very fair in presenting what is enticing about the proposal. The problem is that what is enticing is disingenuous and, ultimately, counterproductive.
That is to say, the good in the bipartisan Senate negotiators’ proposal — and there definitely is some — (a) can already be accomplished under current law, and (b) would require faith that the Biden administration will for some reason enforce these provisions even though it has systematically refused to enforce existing border-security provisions. More important, to get the illusory good in the proposal, Congress would have to enact provisions in the deal that would both undermine existing statutory restrictions and etch into our law magnets for illegal immigration.
I take very seriously Mr. McCarthy’s concern that a reelected Biden Administration would indeed abrogate the terms of the agreement and count on their media and academic allies to provide them intellectual coverage for doing so, and I made that point explicitly in my original post. And yes, Mr. McCarthy is absolutely correct that the Biden Administration should not need this sort of prodding to do its damn job in securing the border. Again, I made that very point with respect to Speaker Johnson’s complaints in the post. But short of impeachment — which at this point I would strongly support — of President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas, I don’t see how the GOP forces concessions from Joe Biden without at least throwing the Democrats a few bones that they are already collecting even without the agreement. I remain steadfast that this compromise bill is a slight improvement over the status quo.
But I urge readers to take a look at Mr. McCarthy’s dissenting piece as well. As usual, he makes a compelling case.
—- Original Post —-
Regarding the Senate compromise on immigration over the weekend, NRO’s Noah Rothman has some stern words for Republicans who would reject it out of hand as inadequate:
If you could speak to any sentient political observer from ten years ago, when the “Gang of Eight” immigration-reform bill failed, and tell him that Congress had since abandoned amnesty entirely, your interlocutor would probably conclude that the GOP had won the great immigration debate.
Indeed, if you went on to inform your perplexed time-traveler that not only had congressional negotiators produced an enforcement-only immigration bill, but they’d also baked into it provisions designed to contain Russian, Chinese, and Iranian aggression, he would probably conclude that the Republican Party was the dominant force in American politics.
If you then notified him that Democrats controlled both the Senate and the White House while the GOP maintained only the smallest of conceivable House majorities, you might have a medical emergency on your hands. Only when you told your companion that the GOP had somehow convinced itself that it was in its best interests to reject all this would your company recover from the shock of it all. Republicans’ getting in their own way is the perennial constant, after all.
I started out as a skeptic of the compromise, because like most conservatives I begin with the assumption that the Democrats have left themselves enough escape hatches that we will yet again have a Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown moment once Joe Biden is safely reelected and his administration goes back to the pre-compromise status quo ante with a porous border and zero will to do anything about it. But Mr. Rothman begs to differ with my jaundiced take, and sees some significant victories in the compromise:
The compromise legislation released last night appears to fit that bill. The package deal provides funding to increase U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention capacity from 34,000 to 50,000 migrants. It tightens the requirements for those seeking asylum status by limiting the “credible-fear standard” for applicants to specific conditions that might reasonably constitute a “credible fear” of having to return home. It increases the number of judges (and, critically, Immigration Judge Teams) available to process the obscene backlog of immigration claims, and allows some claims to be handled by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It puts curbs on the president’s ability to give migrants parole — what Republicans deride as a system of “catch and release” — which presidents of both parties have abused.
Perhaps most consequentially, the bill compels the Department of Homeland Security to turn away all border crossers at any point of entry, legal or otherwise, once officials encounter either a seven-day rolling average of 5,000 border crossers per day or 8,500 migrants on a single day. The provision ensures that Joe Biden would be legally compelled to take the migrant crisis over which he has presided — one that featured 302,043 encounters along the border just last month — seriously.
Mr. Rothman takes the measure of House Republicans’ criticism of the compromise and finds it wanting. While acknowledging that it is legitimate for Speaker Mike Johnson to resent the fact that Congress is being called upon to force the Administration to enforce existing law, but he cites my new favorite reporter, Bill Melugin, to show that Republicans are fundamentally misunderstanding a key provision. Rather than triggering the temporary suspension of border crossings only when DHS observes a daily average of 5,000 people crossing the border illegally over seven consecutive days, the suspension is triggered if DHS averages 5,000 or more encounters over that period. Not all of those whom DHS encounters will be allowed to remain on this side of the border; a huge chunk of those illegal crossers will be sent back, yet their numbers will still trigger the enactment of the automatic border shut down.
If Mr. Melguin is correct in his assessment, this sounds like a pretty good bill for Republicans, but with a few caveats. I join House Republicans in worrying that the President still reserves the right to claim a “national emergency” and keep the border open for up to 45 days even if the encounter threshold is met. I am also interested in some claims by Senate Republicans that the Secretary of Homeland Security can usurp the President’s authority and keep the border open on his or her own volation. I would hope the House negotiators could whittle that down to 15 days, and only upon the order of the President, thereafter requiring the assent of Congress. Sen. Tom Cotton’s concerns that the Secretary of DHS now has authority to grant work visas without having to first process the asylum-seeker through immigration court may indeed be granting too much authority to a political appointee. And yes, we do issue up to 50,000 additional visas over the next five years. But as Mr. Rothman’s piece has pointed out, the GOP continues to hold firm on the issue of amnesty and pathway to citizenship, so Democrats are going to have to negotiate — and, one would hope, agree to serious compromises — if they really want to make this a priority of theirs.
So I guess I’ve come around to believe that this compromise represents a decent improvement over the present situation and should be ratified, as long as the House can force a few cosmetic changes. Some of the more politically inclined might worry that this would be handing an election-year “win” over to Biden Administration, but if the GOP can’t market this to voters as a matter where Republicans forced the Biden Administration to drop its obstinance and bow to reality, then the party really doesn’t deserve any sort of success this November anyway. And as much as House firebrands and the utter nimrod who appears poised to lead them in November find this to be a complete capitulation to the Deep State or whomever the enemy of the day is, it should be noted that the left-wing Third Worldists and open-borders crowd is also up in arms about this legislation, suggesting that it cuts into their ideal of waves and waves of poor, unskilled, and uneducated immigrants providing them with children who will form the core of the voters for the future social welfare big government anti-capitalist state.
The GOP has an opportunity to vote yes on this compromise, then run ads in swing states pointing out that Democrats refused to take border security seriously until busloads of immigrants began arriving straight to their communities without having been first processed and taken care of in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. One of the few Republican victories in the Biden Era has been to make a broad swath of America of all parties and ideologies see that the broken system is a problem for all Americans, not just those in border states. It would be a shame if Republicans walked away from a meaningful improvement they could take credit for, just because they prefer bitching about our problems to solving them.