Now, less than two months before the Nov. 7 midterm elections, House Republicans -- desperate to avoid the wrath of conservative voters, who might be angry at lawmakers who offer nothing on immigration reform but talk -- seem to have brushed aside the Sensenbrenner bill, the Hutchison-Pence plan and the possibility of working out differences with the Senate bill, which offers illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
Instead, Republicans have cobbled together a slate of 10 just-for-show enforcement measures intended to make voters think the illegal immigration problem can be fixed with a little spit and glue.
Last week, the House approved the first measure: 700 miles of border fencing. Republicans say that this will cost about $2 billion, while Democrats put the cost at closer to $7 billion. Either way, the House fence bill didn't include a way to cover the tab.
That's not the worst of it. Fencing sounds good, but it doesn't work. At best, it might redirect human traffic, as it did in the 1990s when cracking down in San Diego and El Paso squeezed more illegal immigrants through Arizona. Besides, as any Border Patrol agent will tell you, there's no fence long enough, high enough or deep enough for the desperate not to go around, over or under it.
Still to come on the House enforcement agenda: hiring some 1,200 more Border Patrol agents, stepping up prosecutions of immigrant smugglers, an end to the "catch and release" program (which the administration has already discontinued), a ban against alien gang members entering the United States (as if we didn't already have a ban against the entry of undocumented aliens) and criminal penalties for building or financing border tunnels to allow for smuggling (as if smuggling itself wasn't already a crime).
None of these efforts will do any good, of course, without first addressing the magnet that draws illegal immigrants here in the first place -- jobs, jobs and more jobs provided by U.S. employers. Interestingly enough, nowhere in the GOP's 10-point enforcement plan do you find any mention of stiffening employer sanctions even though that provision was in the Sensenbrenner bill.
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