It came as no surprise. Nobody had high expectations on the Senate and, after the first failed attempt to obtain cloture, it became obvious that the Immigration Reform didn’t stand a chance. Still, President Bush and his Cabinet made a big effort and pushed the Senate to bring it back to life. The result was a complete disaster and the oblivious rejection of a desperately needed reform. But, after months of debate and hard work, who’s to blame for the failure? Is there a winner? And what’s to become of the nearly twelve million undocumented immigrants already in the country? The reactions were as expected as the failure and they do nothing but portray the political intent behind the actors in this tragedy.
The immigration reform failed and chances are that no other such law will be discussed in Congress before the 2008 presidential election. But who’s to blame for the failure? Democrats moved really fast to point their fingers to Republicans and Republicans blamed the bill itself. The truth is that Republicans opposed the bill since the beginning and only a bunch of them was really willing to push it and close ranks with Democrats. But Democrats, on the other hand, had majority in both chambers and were unable to deliver their promise. The Democratic leadership showed an incredible lack of –precisely- leadership and tried to blame it on Republicans. And though the bill was far from perfect, it was better than nothing.
The Minuteman Civil Corps claimed the victory as theirs and other groups applauded the failure. They said they killed the law, we say it was premeditated murder.
The reactions came from all over the country and we made a brief recollection of some of the most important reactions related to the issue:
President Bush: Mission Unaccomplished
It was 12:38PM when President Bush, visibly uncomfortable, took the stand at Spruance Auditorium at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He said “Legal immigration is one of the top concerns of the American people and Congress’s failure to act on it is a disappointment. The American people understand the status quo is unacceptable when it comes to our immigration laws. A lot of us worked hard to see if we could find a common ground -it didn’t work. Congress really needs to prove to the American people that it can come together on hard issues…We’ve got a lot of work to do.” If there was one person who really needed to accomplish this reform it was him. None of his major initiatives have been approved by Congress during his administration and this was his chance to prove that he can deliver.
Harry Reid: “A Defeat for the American People”
Yes, it was a defeat, but more than a defeat for the American People it was a clear defeat for the Democratic Leadership, who was unable to deliver its promise. Reid (D-Nevada) failed the test as the majority leader and was unable to close ranks on one of the most important issues before the Senate this year. Still, he reacted immediately by saying: “The defeat of immigration reform is a profound disappointment. This vote rejects tougher border security and now our border patrol agents will continue to do their jobs shorthanded. Today’s vote does nothing to solve our problem of 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows. And this vote also ignores the very real economic needs of farmers and small business owners. The current system is broken, but there were not enough Senators willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work to fix it.”
John McCain: “The American People will not Settle for the Status Quo”
John McCain (R-Arizona) was one of the toughest defenders of the immigration reform. He risked even his presidential hopes by defending the bill and confronting extreme right wing conservatives on the floor and accused them of playing politics with the issue. He is right, American People will not settle for the Status Quo but still it was forced to take it by a Senate more interested in political gain than people. He reacted with disappointment but hope after the vote by saying: “I am disappointed that the Senate was unable to conclude its debate on comprehensive immigration reform. However, the American people will not settle for the status quo – de facto amnesty and broken borders. I am hopeful that we will have another chance to address this critical national security issue that affects people throughout our country. In the meantime, we must keep working to secure our borders while we continue fighting to reform our unenforceable immigration laws.”
Ted Kennedy: A Silent Reaction
For a veteran Senator as Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) defeat is never an easy pill to swallow. This is the third time on five years that his efforts to obtain an immigration reform are defeated. He kept silent after the vote and retired almost immediately, after the session was over, without a formal reaction. We still remember his May 21st speech, when he said: “We take up the solemn task of immigration reform – not just because we may, but because we must. Our values are tarnished when we allow 12 million human beings to live in the dark shadows of abuse as undocumented immigrants. Our economy is harmed when our immigration system fails to protect the American dream of a good job and decent wages. Our competitiveness in the global economy is at risk when our employers cannot find the able workers they need. Our immigration system is adrift and urgently needs an overhaul from top to bottom.”
John Kyl: Bill Represented Best Chance to Reform Immigration Laws
For John Kyl (R-Arizona), another veteran on the Senate, the failure lies on both parties and the result will be nothing that a vicious Status Quo. He was under fire by conservative groups from Arizona during the last days of the debate, to the point that calls to oust him form office on the next election are gaining momentum. He described the failure with the following words: “This immigration bill represented the best chance to pass legislation to help secure our borders and reform our immigration laws. I am disappointed that the Senate has rejected a motion to continue its consideration. The failure of this bill lies with people on both sides of the aisle. The result of our inaction regrettably means the status quo will continue, as thousands of illegal immigrants continue pouring across our borders every day and millions already here will continue receiving silent amnesty. While I am hopeful that consideration of a bill may come back up later in the year, I believe it will be very difficult given the impending legislative schedule. Regardless, I remain committed to finding ways to increase resources to help secure our borders and reform our immigration laws to restore the rule of law.”
Nancy Pelosi: putting the blame on Republicans
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House and leader of the Democratic Majority in the House of Representatives was very fast to blame the failure to deliver on the Republicans. Somehow she forgot that back in January she said that immigration was not in her Top Ten issues to address for this year. She seemed to have forgotten that Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) introduced three months ago a bill called “STRIVE” that addresses the issue and that the Democratic Leadership hasn’t done anything at all to find the necessary support in their own ranks to take it to the floor. Still, she reacted with these words: “Today, Republicans in the Senate had an historic chance to act in the interests of the American people, but chose not to. Although the immigration bill before the Senate was far from perfect, it would have served as a starting point to address this critical issue for our nation. During the entire process, newly elected Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate have been committed to fixing a problem that past Republican Congresses have ignored for years. The President had an obligation to the American people to persuade his fellow Republicans to pass a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill. Unfortunately, he was unable to do so. Instead, Republicans in the Senate blocked a bill that attempted to fix our nation’s dysfunctional immigration system. In doing so, they have failed the American people.”
The American Legion: “A Victory for the American People”
According to National Commander Paul A. Morin, this was a victory for the American People and it’s a matter of Border Security related to the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks: “It is unconscionable that six years after the worst terrorist attack in history, America’s borders are still not secure. However, awarding amnesty to foreigners who have broken the law is not and will never be the way to make America more secure. Some of the terrorists who plotted to murder Americans at Fort Dix fit the definition of what many call ‘undocumented workers.’ They are illegal aliens and that is the term I will continue to use. The American Legion is willing to work with our leaders in reforming immigration, but there can be no reform until our borders and ports are secure.”
John J. Sweeney, AFL-CIO President: “It was an Unworkable and Regressive Bill”
“The Senate’s draft immigration plan was in need of major reconstruction work from the get-go. Unfortunately, as the bill was navigated through the legislative process it only got worse, becoming a bill that catered more to the interests of employers at the expense of both immigrant and US-born workers. Mounting anti-family and anti-worker provisions made the Senate’s immigration bill unworkable and ultimately regressive in terms of immigrant and workers’ rights. If approved, it would have only perpetuated the problems it intended to solve.”
The Minuteman Civil Corps: Lobbying Killed the Bill
According to the Minutemen, its leaders, Chris Simcox and Carmen Mercer are the ones who deserve credit for this “victory”. Obviously their organized effort was stronger than reason and, at the end, their racist and segregationist message prevailed in the announced murder of this bill. “The so-called Immigration “Reform” Bill has been killed, largely by the lobbying efforts in DC by Minuteman founder Chris Simcox and Minuteman Vice President Carmen Mercer. The whopping Trillion Dollar tax boondoggle is dead but the efforts to keep it from reviving again are still being made by the Minutemen and other groups. The Minutemen continue to build their own private fence, funded with private funds, but they urge the Bush administration to build their government fence that keeps getting delayed.”