Monday, June 11, 2007

Immigration and Prisons by Gary

It’s Back
We warned you last week that the so-called comprehensive immigration reform bill wasn’t dead, but wounded. Forty-eight hours later, the White House is engaged in a full court press to resuscitate the bill. Administration spokesmen made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows vowing to fight on, and President Bush will be making a rare Capitol Hill visit tomorrow to sell the plan to skeptical senators in his own party – three-quarters of whom voted against the bill Thursday night. But the expenditure of additional political capital on this bill – as a matter of politics and policy – makes little sense. In tackling immigration reform in a “comprehensive” manner, the politicians are putting the cart before the horse (amnesty before border security) and they have lost the confidence of the American people. The respected polling firm Rasmussen Reports has done outstanding work tracking this debate, and I wanted to share some of Rasmussen’s post-mortem commentary:

“There is no mystery to why the public opposed the bill. In the minds of most Americans, immigration reform means reducing illegal immigration and enforcing the border. Only 16% believed the Senate bill would accomplish that goal.…

“From the beginning, the Senate approached the issue with [the] top priority of addressing the legal status of the illegal aliens. They addressed concerns about guest-worker programs and questions about whether family or skill level should be more important when determining who could enter the country.

“All of those are important questions, but they are not the most important question. Rasmussen Reports polling found that 72% of Americans believe it’s Very Important to reduce illegal immigration and enforce the borders. Just 29% said it was Very Important to legalize the status of those illegally living in the country today.”

Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, White House spokesman Tony Snow said, “Our sense is that if Majority Leader Harry Reid brings it back up, which he should, and permits a full debate, …we’re not only going to get a bill, but we’re going to get a better bill.” Really? Knowing that border security and enforcement is the main concern of the public, let’s recap just a few of the amendments that were defeated in two weeks of debate: the Coleman amendment to end the policy of “sanctuary cities,” defeated 48-to-49; the McConnell amendment to require a photo ID for voting in order to combat voter fraud, defeated 41-to-52; the Cornyn amendment to deny amnesty to gang members and illegal aliens with criminal records, defeated 46-to-51; the Vitter amendment to guarantee a secure, biometric check in/check out visa system be in place prior to any guest worker program going into effect, defeated 48-to-49; and the Coburn-DeMint amendment to guarantee full border security prior to amnesty, defeated 42-to-54.

Maybe President Bush is going to go to Capitol Hill tomorrow and urge senators to reconsider their votes on these important border security amendments. That would be a debate worth having. I suspect Harry Reid decided to cut off the debate last week because all these votes against commonsense border security issues was getting a little embarrassing. As Rasmussen Reports noted, border security could rally the overwhelming majority of Americans and unite the conservative base against Ted Kennedy and the pro-amnesty liberals in the Senate. But without these amendments, it’s hard to imagine how we will “get a better bill,” and the insistence of Washington’s political elites on forcing something through that the public clearly does not want will only infuriate the grass roots even more.

Prisons Cracking Down
Here’s some encouraging news: Over the weekend, CBS News reported that inmates at the federal prison in Otisville, New York, are suing because prison officials recently removed a number of books from the prison’s chapel library. According to U.S. Attorney Brian Feldman, the Bureau of Prisons is finally acting on a 2004 Department of Justice review of security issues post-9/11, noting that prisons “had been radicalized by inmates who were practicing or espousing various extreme forms of religion, specifically Islam.” In addition to limiting access to certain books, the review also recommended “monitoring of worship areas and chapel classrooms and screening of religious service providers to weed out extreme views.” It is encouraging to know that the government is taking steps to limit the spread of Islamofascism in our prisons. But I hope that the government is being just as pro-active, if not more so, to “weed out” the extremists who are not behind bars.

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