Yes, the amnesty bill is dead, apparently for good. You won't see another attempt at "immigration reform" until after the next President takes office, and only if there's a major shift in public opinion.
In military terms, defeat of the amnesty measure represents a victory in an important battle. But we haven't won the larger war.
With rejection of the Bush/Kennedy/McCain plan, we're back to square one on immigration.
Our borders remain porous--and that's being generous. The flood of illegal aliens continues, and their number will only grow.
Enforcement of existing immigration laws is haphazard at best. During the run-up to this morning's Senate vote, administration spokesmen touted recent "enforcement" efforts. And it's true; security along our southern border has been tightened over the last two years. Trouble is, the Bush Administration has been in office since 2001, and did nothing about the immigration problems during its first term. Ditto for Bill Clinton during his eight years in the White House, and George H.W. Bush before that.
In fact, the last "stab" at immigration reform came in 1986, with Ronald Reagan's amnesty program, which opened the gates for the 12-20 million illegals who now reside in the United States. In hindsight, members of the Reagan team called it "the worst decision he ever made." Yet, 20 years later, another Republican President (and a Democratic Congress) were prepared to make the same mistake--with little regard for the potential consequences. Meanwhile, the nation continues to pay the price for past mistakes.
Consider the staggering burden placed on our social programs, schools and hospitals by the illegals. Paying for their education, health care and welfare benefits will continue, at a cost of billions of dollars a year.
So does the threat to our national security. In reporter Todd Bensman's recent series for the San Antonio Express-News , he detailed the tide of illegal immigrants who come to America from high-risk countries that support or harbor terrorists. Using data from the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Bensman discovered that more than 6,000 illegals from 46 "countries of interest" have been apprehended along our southern border since 2001. the number who managed to sneak through is much higher, probably between 30-40,000. Federal authorities have no idea about the whereabouts of these potential terrorists. Under current enforcement policies, most will remain at large, with the opportunity to plan new attacks on our soil.
We also know that Al Qaida views our southern border as a "secondary" infiltration route for smuggling operatives into the U.S (bringing them in with legal documentation remains the preferred method). Intelligence sources tell us that there was "great concern" about a possible Al Qaida-Mexico connection three years ago. Officials were so concerned that all ranking Al Qaida terrorists then in custody were questioned about possible strikes originating from Mexico, or using that country as a transit point. The terror group clearly understands that our southern border remains open, and we've taken only modest steps to stop the flow of illegals.
If you want proof of that, consider the 700 mile security fence, approved last year by Congress for the U.S.-Mexican border. The money has been appropriated, but at last report, less than 15 miles of fence had actually been built--despite clear evidence that barriers in other areas have reduced illegal immigration by as much as 50%.
Obviously, much work remains on the immigration issue. It was pressure from voters that finally killed the bill (with a timely assist from Talk Radio and the blogosphere); now it's up to those same groups to launch the next phase in the campaign: convincing Congress and the Administration to enforce existing laws, and follow-through on measures already passed, most notably the security fence.
The next battle will prove even tougher, because President Bush and key members of Congress are more-than-comfortable with the status quo. Democrats view the illegals as a new bloc of voters; Republicans who support reform are worried about their presidential prospects, trying to salvage a legacy, or they're trying to placate (choose at least one): the cheap labor lobby, illegal immigration activists, or The New York Times editorial board.
In other words, if you expect the current crop of elected leaders to do the "right thing" on immigration (other than a few stalwart Republican Senators and the House GOP caucus), you will be sadly disappointed. That's why the third--and truly decisive phase--of this battle will unfold in 2008, when we have an opportunity to get rid of the amnesty crowd, once and for all.
Savor today's victory for a few minutes--then back to work.
The MSM is already spinning today's vote as a major defeat for President Bush--which it was. But the Senate vote was also a tremendous setback for majority leader Harry Reid, who can't get anything done in the chamber controlled by his party. As for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, she wouldn't even touch the issue, and we think she's probably breathing a silent prayer, thankful that the Senate killed a measure that faced certain defeat in her chamber.