May 16, 2006

Senate Rejects Securing the Borders while Supporting Increased Presidential Power

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Senate today expressly rejected a secure-the-border-first program of immigration reform. By a vote of 40-55, the Senate voted down the following amendment submitted by Senator Johnny Isakson…

The Secretary [of Homeland Security] may not implement any program authorized by this Act, or by amendments made under this Act, which grants legal status to any individual, or adjusts the current status of any individual, who enters or entered the United States in violation of Federal law unless the Secretary has submitted a written certification to the President and Congress that the border security measures authorized under Title I and the increases in Federal detention space authorized under section 233 have been fully completed and are fully operational.
Most Democrats, including Senator Jack Reed, as well as Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, voted against Senator Isakson's amendment.

A few minutes later, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a mushier version in terms of policy, but a stronger version in terms of Presidential decision making. The full text of the amendment isn’t available yet, but here is the short description of the approved amendment available with the roll-call tally…

To prohibit implementation of title IV and title VI until the President determines that implementation of such titles will strengthen the national security of the United States.
Title IV of the immigration bill is mostly the guest-worker program; Title VI contains the pay-for-amnesty provisions.

In addition to showing a lax attitude towards border security, the Democrats are displaying rank hypocrisy in this vote-pair. Here are concerns about executive power expressed by Senator Patrick Leahy in the Boston Globe

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, accused Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney of attempting to concentrate ever more government power in their own hands.
Yet when in agreement with the policy outcome it would promote -- in this case open borders -- Senator Leahy and his fellow Democrats support cutting cabinet secretaries out of executive branch decision-making and concentrating decision-making power directly in the hands of the President.

Congressional Democrats support a similar agenda of preventing the Secretary of State from taking a formal role in executive branch decisions concerning United Nations reform.