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Commentary: House GOP pushes 'reform for dummies'

By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
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SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- In tackling the immigration issue, Republicans in Congress really outdid themselves. Call it: "Immigration Reform for Dummies."

Republicans squabbled for months over whether to pursue the enforcement-only approach favored by House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner and other hard-liners or the comprehensive plan supported by Sen. John McCain and two dozen GOP senators.

Along the way, the GOP hardliners in the House brushed aside a reasonable compromise proposed by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, that rejects amnesty, puts border security first and requires illegal immigrants to go home before re-entering the country legally as guest workers.

Then, this month, House Republicans caught a glimpse of the calendar, discovered that the November election was around the corner and trembled at the thought that their own conservative voters might not look favorably on the people who represent them offering nothing on a hot issue except hot air.

So they hurriedly cobbled together a slate of 10 enforcement measures, as if the immigration problem could be fixed with spit and glue.

The first measure that the House approved was 700 miles of border fencing. It was for show. It showed America that folks in Washington don't really understand how the border works.

First, as any border patrol agent will tell you, there's no fence that can keep out someone who is desperate to feed his family and who's willing to go around, go over, or go under.

Next, every time we crack down on the border, it enhances the bottom line for these multimillion-dollar smuggling outfits. Whereas it used to cost about $500 to cross the border, now the price is closer to $3,000. If we build more walls, the smugglers will raise prices again. That's bad. It creates an incentive for smugglers to stay in business since business is so good.

Lastly, we've built fences before, and it only resulted in more illegal immigration. It used to be that one member of a family would go north -- a father, son or brother -- and he'd work and go back to Mexico for Christmas or Mother's Day.

Each time he returned home, there was the chance he'd stay. Now, it's too difficult and expensive to cross, so the workers no longer go back. Instead, they're paying smugglers to bring their families to join them in the United States.

That's why the numbers have gone up. Like I said, "Immigration Reform for Dummies."

The smart thing is to stop the magnet that draws illegal immigrants here: Jobs, jobs, jobs provided by U.S. employers.

And yet, nowhere in the GOP's 10-point enforcement plan do you find any mention of employer sanctions.

I don't suppose that has anything to do with the fact that the Republican Party is the party of business, and, more and more in America, businesses depend on illegal immigrant labor.

Say, maybe those Congressional Republicans aren't so dumb after all. They know a thing or two about survival. Now if they could only brush up on the requirements of leadership.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist. Read his column at http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/op-ed/navarrette/index.htmlexternal link.


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Navarrette: Immigration plan was hurriedly cobbled together.

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