What's next after the Senate's immigration train wreck?

What's next after the Senate's immigration train wreck?
© Greg Nash

If Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom had set out to produce a legislative flop on the floor of the United States Senate they could not have outdone Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Poll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump MORE’s (R-Ky.) scheme to address U.S. immigration policy and the fate of current DACA recipients.

In a backroom deal with Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE (D-N.Y.) to end January’s government shutdown, McConnell agreed to a build-it-from-scratch process on the Senate floor, where any amendment that could get to 60 votes would become part of a bill that would leave an indelible mark on the nation. Not a single one did.

The process was essentially an invitation for every special interest driven immigration priority and every transparent effort to deceive the American people into believing that the end result would be a better and more enforceable immigration policy. Oh, and it all had to get done in just four days so that senators — a mere six weeks into the current session — could get a jump start on their vacations.


Much like Bialystock and Bloom, the Senate failed in its attempt to fail the American people. Only the train wreck on the floor of the Senate wasn’t funny.


The Senate’s embarrassing failure to even come up with a bill that addresses the interests and concerns of the American people about immigration policy, much less pass anything, does not mean these issues are going away. It presents a challenge — or an opportunity — to the House.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFive takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump MORE has also promised to address changes to U.S. immigration policy and the situation of DACA recipients. Unlike the Senate, which had no bill at all to work with, Ryan’s Republican caucus has legislative language already drawn up and ready to go. Equally important, Ryan has the luxury of passing legislation with a simple majority.

The Securing America’s Future Act, H.R. 4760, sponsored by the Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteIt’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling House GOP probe into FBI, DOJ comes to an end MORE (R-Va.), and Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) is a viable blueprint for overhauling U.S. immigration policy. It includes real border security; protection for legal U.S. workers in the form of mandatory E-Verify; protection of public safety with meaningful penalties against sanctuary policies that shield criminal aliens; adoption of a merit-based immigration policy; and an end to the visa lottery. It also offers protection to those who stepped forward and received DACA status — protections that would become permanent when the promises made to the American people are fulfilled.

Every one of these provisions — border security, interior enforcement, a rational legal immigration process, and protection of DACA beneficiaries — enjoys broad public support — something that will be hard for members of the ‘people’s house’ to ignore in an election year.

The Securing America’s Future Act could pass in the House. Realistically speaking, it would probably be blocked in the Senate where it is hard to find 60 members who could agree that the sun will rise in the east. But, so be it. Even if the American people cannot exact a win in the Senate, the process of killing a commonsense bill that restores public interest priorities to immigration policy and resolves the unique situation of people who came to the United States illegally as minors would force opponents of the measure to justify their obstruction.

Notwithstanding the noise made by a well-funded network of groups working for unchecked immigration, there is no constituency that supports unsecured borders, allowing employers to hire illegal aliens rather than Americans, turning criminal aliens loose on the streets, or allowing ten nations to dominate 60 percent of the immigration flow through family chain migration.

Moreover, at some point, the courts will overturn the legally indefensible rulings issued by judges in San Francisco and Brooklyn that now prevent the administration from carrying through on its decision to terminate the DACA program. At that point, the Senate’s refusal to give the American people a sensible and enforceable immigration policy will jeopardize the status of some 690,000 DACA beneficiaries — the group of people whose fate Senate Democrats seem to care about above all else.

The coming months present the House majority a rare win-win-win opportunity. Passage of the Securing America’s Future Act would represent a win for the American people, for 690,000 DACA beneficiaries, and a legislative body that could use some positive achievements to bring home to voters. 

The American people want a serious overhaul of immigration policy. If they want farce, they can rent a Mel Brooks movie. At least it will be funny.

Ira Mehlman is media director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).