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Immigration Bill: Lots of Bad Ideas, and No Fence

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By Herman Cain

The Comprehensive Immigration Bill debated in the Senate last week was dead on arrival because of too many competing agendas. Liberals wanted to keep illegal families together, conservatives passionately rejected amnesty, some businesses wanted more low-skill workers, other businesses wanted more skilled workers with a new temporary workers program for legal immigrants -- and most regular folks kept screaming, "Where's the fence?"

Comprehensive has become congressional code for: Let's put a lot of agendas and stuff in the legislation and maybe the public will not notice the details. This time it backfired miserably, because people did notice the details and all groups dug in their heels for their key agenda item and their respective regular folks screamed loud and in great numbers.

Not since the outcry against the failed Hillary Care plan for universal health care in 1994 has there been such a broad revolt by the public. People have disagreed with proposed legislation before. It happens all the time. Usually Congress is able to smooth over the public objections during debate, pass the legislation and then hold a press conference and tell the public how great it is, and how hard they had to work to get good compromised legislation.

A well-known example was the passage of the Prescription Drug Bill in 2003. Democrats loved it because it expanded social spending. Republicans loved it because they thought it would buy votes from senior citizens, which it did not. And once again, the taxpayers had to pay for good compromise legislation that will cost over $900 billon instead of the original estimate of about $300 billion over 10 years.

The Immigration Bill was supposed to be another episode of good compromise legislation, even though Congress has no idea what it will cost. It is just bad legislation with different agendas glued together, while not emphasizing enough of the public's number one priority -- the fence! Not just wire, wood and concrete, but all the technologies we have available to stop the rampant inflow of illegal aliens into this country.

We have the technology to identify one mad cow and a chicken with the flu when they threaten our food supply. We can track one potentially contagious tuberculosis patient half way around the world when he threatens the health of thousands of people. And we can capture a crystal clear picture of a driver, his tag number and who is in the car with him going through an intersection a fraction of a second after a traffic light turns red.

But yet, Congress is reluctant to use that technology to shut down our borders, which threaten our national and economic security.

Just as the proposed bill was going down in flames, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the ever-liberal Ted Kennedy were asking for President Bush's help in trying to persuade Republicans to support this bill to nowhere. Now that's interesting. Where were they and the Republicans when the president was leading the charge with a good solution (personal retirement accounts) to the oncoming crash of the Social Security system? Nowhere!

The Immigration Bill could have succeeded if the political class in Congress and the president had listened to the public and addressed the four distinct problems. Namely, secure the borders convincingly, expand the temporary worker program for skilled legal immigrants, establish a reliable legal immigrant identification program and then propose a reasonable program for the 12 million (and counting) illegal persons who broke our laws to get here, but not amnesty.

The one positive out of this legislative disaster is that people should now see that if enough of them scream loud enough and often enough, they can influence their senators and representatives on ill-constructed legislation. We should not have to scream, but, unfortunately, that's what our information-overloaded, frenzied media, overwhelmed and leaderless legislative process has come to.

Congress has allowed this problem to fester and grow for over 20 years, and for once in a few times the voters have refused to accept a bad solution to an even worse situation. Maybe next time they will listen to the voters before they try to pass glued together legislation.

Maybe next time, Congress will start with the fence!


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