Have Utahns Killed Immigration Reform?

Comprehensive Immigration Reform isn’t going to pass in 2010.  It was introduced only because President Obama promised to try.  Congress isn’t going to advance the bill in a year when there are ten million unemployed Americans and ten million undocumented immigrants working in America.  You can explain why those two numbers don’t have any real connection but congressmen don’t want to go home to their districts before an election to explain that.

But 2010 isn’t the last chance.  Congress could try next year or the year after that.  Now it looks more and more like it might be impossible to pass a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill.  And Utah may have been the state that made it impossible.

Not many incumbent congressmen run for reelection and lose.  Typical reelection rates range from 95% to 99%.  Many fewer still lose in a primary.  But here in Utah we’ve fired one of three congressmen and one of two senators in the past two years.  That’s the kind of record that makes congressmen and senators with their extreme job security and entitled attitudes perk up and pay attention.

When Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT3) defeated Rep. Cannon in the primary, immigration was one of the top issues.  Cannon was a leader for President Bush’s radical open borders immigration agenda.  I heard Republicans talking about Senator Bennett’s vote for the Bush immigration bill at the convention last month before they sacked him.

Now there are always other issues.  TARP passed with 75 senate votes in 2008 including Bennett and Hatch.  It and other multi-billion dollar giveaways to bankers will always pass with plenty of votes as long as Congress can be bought for money.  Whatever Tea Partiers say, being an appropriator and bringing home earmarked capital projects will always be an advantage for a senator like Bennett.  And everybody already knew that treating constituents and partners with disrespect like Cannon did was dangerous.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform is the one issue I see that would likely have passed without Utah’s primaries in 2008 and 2010 but now will face long, long odds.  It’s a classic issue where Washington elites of both parties are nearly unanimously in favor but the people are doubtful.  Usually those eventually pass quietly attached to some other bill.  This time, though, two of the most powerful men in the country have lost their jobs in consecutive elections of the most terrifying kind — primaries.

That’s going to solidify Republican opposition.  In 2006 Bush’s bill passed the Senate with 23 Republican votes.  With only a few scared Republican votes and far less than all the Democrats, the Obama Comprehensive Immigration Reform won’t pass.

Of course the national media will say it was John McCain, enthusiastic proponent of Bush Immigration Reform, who blocked the issue after reversing positions in his primary.  Especially if he loses.  But McCain is sure to take after his good buddy Joe Lieberman who lied to the public about the war through his election and went right back to being a mindless warmonger when he was back in Washington.  Once (if?) McCain is renominated in August, he’ll be a reformer again.  The real effect on congress will be the forty or more Republican senators who get the message and block any progress.  And that is the Utah effect, not McCain’s.

Meanwhile there are at least fifteen million undocumented people in our country with no right to vote, to the minimum wage, to safe working conditions, to go to the police when threatened with a crime, to form a union, to be free from discrimination and sexual harassment, to organize their communities and protect the quality of life, or to petition the government for redress of grievances.  And there’s no prospect things will get better.

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