Saturday, August 26, 2006

Phony immigration hearings flop

As the Sensenbrenner Judiciary Committee circus heads for its last "hearing" on immigration reform on Sept. 1 in Dubuque (Iowa is thinking of walling off the border), it appears the road show has fizzled.

It has probably accomplished its purpose of stalling Congressional action and getting some media coverage on the issue in places with contested elections. But public interest in the hearings -- and perhaps in the issue -- has waned, and the hearings did not excite the anti-immigrant crowd the way they were intended to.

Americans have short attention spans. Even House members have quit showing up.

AP reports:
People don't pay attention to these things, except the C-SPAN junkies," said Gary Jacobson, an expert in congressional politics at the University of California, San Diego. "It's not surprising that it's fizzled."

Democrats and immigrant groups have questioned the need for the hearings because such meetings are typically held before legislation is passed _ not after. Critics call the hearings an election-year tactic to delay negotiations on the competing immigration bills passed by the House and Senate.

Many House members have shown waning interest in the meetings, preferring to campaign during the August recess or go on vacation, Jacobson said.

A hearing in San Diego drew just two congressmen, even though it is a border city often described as a crucible of immigration politics. Another gathering in Dalton, Ga., attracted just three representatives.

A sparsely attended hearing in El Paso, Texas, was held in the dark and rebroadcast on C-SPAN with a note reading: "This hearing was held in a theater with lighting problems."

Another gathering scheduled for Friday in upstate New York was canceled with one week's notice. A spokesman for the Judiciary Committee blamed logistical difficulties getting members to the meeting from a panel in Concord, N.H., that took place the previous day.
Sensenbrenner, who's responsible for this massive waste of taxpayer dollars, naturally is pleased as punch with the hearings:
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said the meetings allowed lawmakers "to hear testimony from local people, as well as to talk with them informally."
The fact is, the only people who testified were a handful who had been invited. There was no chance for local people to testify. Maybe Sensenbrenner heard from them informally when they were driving his cab or cleaning his hotel room. AP notes:
But even some who agree with the House GOP's hardline stance against illegal immigration gave mixed reviews to the hearings, which generally involved Homeland Security officials, academics and activists discussing the issue.

Ron De Jong, spokesman for the activist group, said he would have liked more accessible venues and an opportunity for audience members to speak.

"I would have provided a forum for citizens to speak," De Jong said. "Give them 90 seconds."
But that might have spoiled the show. The last thing these hearings were intended to do was to hear from the public.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

'Immigration policy, not politics'

He's a travelin' man, and F. Jim Sensenbrenner's road show on immigration keeps drawing flak wherever it goes.

People in New Hampshire -- where illegal immigrants would seem more likely to be Canadians than Mexicans -- say they want to discuss immigration policy, not politics.

AP reports.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Road show, but no action on immigration

An editorial from the News Times of Danbury CT:

Congress talks about reform, but fails to act

Immigration reform has been put on the back burner in Washington; congressional leaders think the issue is too controversial to handle in an election year.

But that doesn't mean the politics of immigration has been put on the back burner. Indeed, Republican leaders in the House, who hold the majority and are in charge of scheduling action on legislation, are having a great time with an immigration roadshow they've organized.

It's much easier to talk about illegal immigration than it is to actually do something about illegal immigration.

Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, went to El Paso, Texas, to stage a public hearing on immigration.

Sensenbrenner told those in attendance that he was in Texas to hear whether the public wants the U.S. government to "consult with a foreign government when taking steps to strengthen the security of our borders."

That foreign government is Mexico, and Sensenbrenner claims supporters of the comprehensive immigration reform legislation approved in the Senate want to let Mexico run the show and let illegal immigrants overrun the United States.

Sensenbrenner says the Senate reform measure is an "unprecedented surrender of America's sovereignty."

In Texas, Wisconsin and elsewhere, Americans know that isn't true. They know something needs to be done, they know the issue is complex and they know that politicians who talk instead of act are not doing the job they were elected to do.

The House immigration roadshow comes to New England next week, with a hearing scheduled in Concord, N.H. Another day, another state, and still nothing is done.
The House, pushed by Sensenbrenner, passed legislation that would increase border security but ignores other pressing immigration issues. What about the illegals already here? The House doesn't provide a solution.

The Senate legislation addresses border security as well as the illegals already here. Recent arrivals would be required to leave, new arrivals could apply for guest worker status. Illegals who have been here longer could try to qualify for a path toward citizenship if they pass a background check and learn English.

That's the more reasonable approach toward immigration reform -- the only workable approach.

House leaders should get off the road and back to work negotiating a compromise with the Senate that will secure the borders and address the problem of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants who are already in the United States.