The 1998 Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration was awarded to Marcus Stern for this series of Articles.
It's nearly 8 years since the sad story below took place. The names of the players, those that would end our national sovereignty are the same. This is a must read! Know thy enemy.
Stern is the reporter to recently break the news of corruption troubles of Cong. Duke Cunningham.
(Part III of Series)Illegal-immigration bill weakened by unlikely allianceBy Marcus SternCOPLEY NEWS SERVICE04-Nov-1997WASHINGTON
- After years of bitter losses, Sen. Alan K. Simpson thought the political tides finally favored his quest to create a way to keep illegal immigrants from getting jobs.
The issue had emerged as a hot-button during the 1996 campaign. This time, he would surely defeat the powerful and savvy pro-immigration lobby.
"As I look out on this sea of faces, there are some who have been cutting my bicycle tire for 17 years," the now-retired Wyoming Republican said last year as the Judiciary Committee prepared to debate his proposals. "They're sitting back there, hollow-eyed, twitching like dogs eating peach seeds and wondering if they can do it again. ... Well, I think that game is over."
Simpson was wrong.
Once again, he had sorely underestimated the tenacity and cleverness of special-interest groups determined to preserve the flow of undocumented workers into the United States.
Yes, Congress eventually passed a new immigration law. But it was so weak it would do little to hasten the creation of a system to help employers quickly and reliably verify that the people working for them are in fact eligible to hold jobs in the United States. Such a system is a key to curbing illegal immigration, according to many experts.
The "twitching dogs" who dragged down Simpson's initiative last year are Capitol heavyweights whose coalition on immigration falls into the unlikely bedfellows category. Among them: the National Federation of Independent Business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association, the Catholic church, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Bar Association and even some labor unions.
As these special interests swarmed all over Capitol Hill, however, no lobbyist represented millions of legal immigrants and other poor people, who, because of welfare reform, soon might need the low-skill jobs now being held by the rising number of undocumented workers.
"There's no National Association of Working Poor," said Robert Reich, who served as labor secretary during President Clinton's first term. "There's no special-interest lobbying group working on behalf of very poor people trying desperately to find and keep jobs.
"If a politician has to decide between the interests of small businesses seeking inexpensive help and the interests of poor Americans either seeking a job or afraid of losing a job or declining earnings, the chances are very good that the small business has far more clout."
The clout displayed last year when the immigration lobby defeated Simpson's plan is a textbook demonstration of how special interests have long dominated immigration policy in Washington.
Simpson wasn't asking for anything remotely like a national ID card or national database of workers. He merely wanted the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to authorize pilot projects to test methods for verifying employment eligibility.
One pilot would have required participating employers to check their new employees' Social Security numbers. Because it would apply to all of their new workers, discrimination against "foreign-looking" job applicants would have been minimized.
But the anti-verification coalition painted the proposal as a sinister plot. It portrayed it as a retina-scan ID card, police-state power, the second coming of the Holocaust and even the fulfillment of a dark prophecy in the Bible's Book of Revelation that people would be stamped with the "mark of the beast."
At one meeting of the Judiciary Committee, an irritated and clearly frustrated Simpson indignantly waved a make-believe tattoo that looked like a grocery store bar code. He called it a ploy to kill his verification proposal. He was right.Grover Norquist, a social conservative and anti-tax Republican lobbyist, reveled unapologetically in the tactics he used to undermine the verification initiative and to mock Simpson personally.
The peel-off bar-code tattoos were supposed to remind people of the way Nazis tattooed Jews during World War II.
"It was great," recalled Norquist, who is close to House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "We had our guys walking around with tattoos on their arms. It drove Simpson nuts because the implication was he's a Nazi."
The truth, however, is that both the House and the Senate bills specifically barred the implementation of any kind of national ID card. Politicians view such a card as a political kiss of death; nobody expects Congress to seriously consider one.
Toward the end of the debate, Simpson decried the pranks and slurs.
"We have dealt with tattoos and Adolf Hitler," he said. "It is the most offensive thing that I have ever heard. It's disgusting and I'm sick of it."
'Mark of the beast'
Although voters tend to see Republicans as tougher than Democrats on illegal immigration, the weakening of the verification provisions was largely the handiwork of conservative Republicans and their behind-the-scenes strategists like Norquist.
Their success underscores how tough it is for Congress to do the one thing experts have said for decades is central to curbing illegal immigration: Establish a reliable, non-discriminatory employment verification system.
Norquist has strong ties to the business community. Mainstream firms like Microsoft paid him to lobby against other provisions of the bill, such as tighter restrictions on the immigration of computer programmers.But his forte is mobilizing support among social or moral conservatives, including gun owners (Note: Norquist now on board of NRA), the religious right,
home-schooling adherents and others he described as "anti-welfare and anti-police state."
"A government powerful enough to find an illegal immigrant is also powerful enough to find your bank accounts," he said.
Conveniently, he ignores the fact that the government long has been able to find bank accounts with ease while it still can't reliably identify undocumented workers.
"Nobody really minds people sneaking across the border and working at 7-Eleven," he added.
At one point during the debate, congressional offices received calls from fundamentalist ministers around the country asking about rumors that the verification provision would fulfill a prophecy in the Book of Revelation. Was it true, they asked congressional staffers, that people would be stamped with the "mark of the beast" under the new law?
"Six-six-six," Norquist explained matter-of-factly during an interview. "That's always been one of the arguments against the ID card. There's something in Revelations about numbering people. The 'beast' could be a big computer."
The National Rifle Association was told the bill would lead to a federal computer registry that the government could use to hunt down its members and seize their guns.
"Gun owners quite correctly understand that it would take Bill Clinton all of two weeks to add the question, 'Got any guns? Could we have a list of them? Where do you keep them?' " said Norquist.
Verification opponents also circulated mock national identification cards bearing Simpson's likeness. On the back of the cards was a retina scan diagram suggesting that the legislation called for everyone to carry such a card.
"That was a good one," Norquist chuckled.
Anti-verification coalition Conservatives didn't fight verification alone last year. They were part of a coalition of strange bedfellows involved in civil rights, ethnic and religious advocacy, anti-government politics and free-market ideology. They were also bolstered by powerful business groups.
The coalition was a juggernaut that fought virtually any verification initiative. Because Republicans control Congress, conservative lobbyists were especially influential. The fact that some limited, voluntary verification projects stayed in the bill at all outraged some conservatives.
"I view it as the camel's nose under the tent for a national ID card," said Stephen Moore, an economist with the Cato Institute who lobbied against the bill. "The theme we played to Republicans was that if you're trying to roll back big government, you shouldn't be instituting this new police-state power."
Social conservatives like Norquist and libertarians like Moore don't see illegal immigration as a major problem.
"Illegal immigration is part of the price we pay for being both a prosperous and a free country, and I'm not willing to sacrifice some of our freedoms to try to keep out immigrants, especially when I don't think it's going to work very well," said Moore.
He added that spending $3 billion-plus a year to fund the Immigration and Naturalization Service "probably is a waste of money. But this is a political issue. And the way you deal with illegal immigration is you increase the INS budget. It doesn't do a lot, but at least politicians on both sides can go home and say, `Well, how can you say I'm not doing anything about immigration? I increased the INS budget.' "
What you don't do, he said, is involve employers in enforcement.
"Sometimes in politics you pass feel-good measures," Moore said. "And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Passing a bill that's mostly window dressing is a way of defusing public alarm about something. And in states like California, illegal immigration is perceived as a big problem."
The INS contends stronger border enforcement has served as a deterrent for illegal crossers and made once dangerous and chaotic border corridors safer and more calm.
But a better verification system is crucial, insists former Labor Secretary Reich.
"Congress has to act and Congress isn't going to act if the only people it hears from are employers who don't want to be sanctioned," he said.
As long as jobs remain available, he added, efforts to stop illegal immigrants from streaming across the border are doomed to failure.
People will go on dying of exposure and exhaustion as they try to get to the jobs that are waiting for them. They instinctively understand that despite the proliferation of border guards and fences, powerful forces in our society still want them to get across."It gets back to the large issue haunting our democratic system right now the overwhelming dominance of special interests
," Reich said.
_______Discussion here: http://www.libertypost.org/cgi-bin/readart.cgi?ArtNum=124890&Disp=23#C23
Backtrack, more on Norquist:
The pimping of the President - Abramoff/Norquist
What has the NRA got to do with Immigration and terrorism?
You Don't Know Jack (But I Did): Notes on Sleazy Lobbyist Jack Abramoff's Guilty