Hard as it may be (or may not be) to believe, the Democrats really do seem to be insisting on keeping the door to citizenship open for illegal immigrants who have committed crimes after they were here, as the Washington Post reported today:
… several Republicans, led by Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona, insisted on numerous amendments. Among other things, they would deny legal status to immigrants who had committed crimes or skipped deportation hearings.
Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said the amendments would allow Cornyn, Kyl and their allies to gut the bill’s chief elements. “The people who were allowed to offer amendments are the people who hate this bill,” Reid said of Thursday’s compromise.
In an editorial, the Post admitted that Reid’s assertion contained at least “elements” of truth, but it then came down hard on the Democrats:
But Democrats — whether their motive was partisan advantage or legitimate fear of a bad bill emerging from conference with the House — are the ones who refused, in the end, to proceed with debate on amendments, which is, after all, how legislation gets made. The unfortunate result is that momentum toward balanced reform may be lost. “The Democratic leadership played politics with the prospect of 10 million immigrants getting on a path to citizenship,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigration group. “It seems that Democratic leaders wanted an issue, not a bill.”
In an analysis of the demise of the compromise, the Sacramento Bee agrees that failure serves the Democrats’ political interests, reminding everyone that the most punitive part of the hated House bill is there because the Democrats insisted on keeping it:
This inaction may serve Democratic political interests. In part, it would avoid handing President Bush a high-profile bill-signing ceremony later this year. With the Senate silent, moreover, the Republican congressional voice on immigration remains a House bill that would designate 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants as felons.
In a vote last December that’s now paying political dividends, House Democrats ensured the felony provision would remain part of the House bill for now. Until the Senate acts, Specter noted, it’s this punitive view that many will associate with Republicans.
In a similar vein, an Associated Press story running today notes:
In private as well as public, Reid and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who heads the party’s campaign effort, said they did not want to expose rank-and-file Democrats to votes that would force them to choose between border security and immigrant rights, only to wind up with legislation that would be eviscerated in future negotiations with the House.
Note the dog that didn’t bark in that comment. The actual choice is not between “border security and immigrant rights,” but border security and illegal immigrant rights. But wait: the rights of legal immigrants are not being challenged, and what “rights” exactly do Reid and Schumer think illegal immigrants have? A “right” to remain here?
It takes real talent to offend both those who want to bar post-illegal-entry felons from citizenship while at the same time offending the Washington Post and pro-immigration groups, but Sen. Reid is nothing if not a talented guy.