Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 21, 2006

Silly season for border security

Filed under: Border Security,Congress and HLS — by Christian Beckner on July 21, 2006

The House of Representatives is convening a series of hearings this month on the immigration and border security legislation, with stilted titles like:

“Should We Embrace the Senate’s Grant of Amnesty to Millions of Illegal Aliens and Repeat the Mistakes of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986?”

And:

“Whether Attempted Implementation of the Senate Immigration Bill Will Result in an Administrative and National Security Nightmare.”

There have already been more than 50 hearings on immigration and border security in the 109th Congress, according to the Washington Post. But even though there’s nothing new to discuss, House Speaker Dennis Hastert indicated today that he might gin up another wave of hearings, and continue them into September, instead of appointing conferees to negotiate with Senate and reconcile the two chambers’ bills. That decision might have merit as an electoral strategy, but it’s one that is detrimental to the security of the United States.

Both the House and Senate bills have their flaws. But that’s the reason why our political system forces members of the two chambers to pack into a proverbial “smoke-filled room” and resolve differences in legislation via tedious negotiation. Perhaps the gap between the two bills really is too wide for a compromise. But by holding out from negotiations, the House Republican leadership isn’t even bothering to try to find out. If the 109th Congress ends without the passage of immigration & border security legislation, then we’re back to square zero in the 110th Congress – the worst possible legislative outcome for efforts to strengthen security on our borders.

If members of Congress, Republican or Democrat, really care about border security, they need to stop the electioneering B.S. and get this done. Perhaps the final bill would be minimalist, consisting of the 70-80% of content that the two chambers already agree on. Or perhaps the two chambers could strike a ‘grand compromise’ that establishes a guest worker program but also authorizes more fencing and strengthens state & local law enforcement authority on immigration enforcement. Both of those options are preferable to the status quo in terms of border security. It’s time for Congress to stop playing games and get this done.

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