What’s Wrong With Rand Paul’s Immigration Bill?

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Win McNamee/Getty Images

It comes as no surprise that a Republican member of Congress has made their move and addressed President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration with legislative action. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a bill over the weekend that would cut down Obama’s recent action, or, in his words “prevent President Obama’s executive amnesty.”

The bill is titled, appropriately given its inflammatory nature, the Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act, and is a four-page addition to a separate bill already introduced by Sen. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), which died after passing the House of Representatives on December 4. Current Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said it will not be voted on in the Senate. The language is predictably similar between both bills, and fairly simple and straightforward in its targeting of Obama’s EA.

But what about another bill?

It’s worth noting that even some conservatives suggested Yoho’s bill was just for show and was unlikely to actually get anything done. This is particularly interesting considering so many were deeply angered by Obama’s decision to act on immigration rather than waiting for the new Congress to take action, and that so many made aggressive warnings and complaints; which makes Paul’s version of the bill somewhat questionable in terms of its effectiveness. Will it pass? 

First of all, how likely is it to pass? The Senate may push it through, and the House has already indicated a willingness to act on a similar bill, but of course President Obama won’t be signing it — meaning a two-thirds vote would be needed to pass it regardless. It’s not impossible that the bill will make its way through the Senate, but given the effort needed to propel it to the presidency, and then to override Obama’s veto, it seems unlikely that some would be willing to go too far with Paul’s effort.

And this time could be spent working on more comprehensive reform to immigration, or perhaps more realistically, simple but powerful legislative approaches to individual immigration problems. Now that a majority in Congress might actually allow for passage, assuming the content is middle of the road enough for a presidential signature, it would be a far better use of their time.

The language of the bill

Predictably, Sen. Paul’s bill says that Obama “has stated at least 22 times in the past that he can’t ignore existing immigration law or create his own immigration law,” a constantly returned to argument that ultimately amounts to nothing but politics. If every action taken by a politician was invalidated by things they’d said in the past contrary to their new stance, we’d be transported in time back to colonial days. Politicians flip flop, they change their mind, and more importantly, it can be made to seem as though they’re statements mean anything if taken out of context and out of the understanding of a certain period in time.

Another interesting section of the bill, which is fairly short and succinct, has to do with the Exceptions subsection which holds that the bill does not apply in cases dealing with “humanitarian purposes” where “the aliens are at imminent risk of serious bodily harm or death.” This is a fairly general statement, which, when applied realistically, accounts for much of the illegal population in America. An enormous number of immigrants come to the United States to escape economic push factors, in search of better income and opportunities for their family. But a whole other enormous segment of that population — and a great number of the more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors who drew so much attention this last year — realistically fall under that category. Whether or not they have proof that would stand before a judge is another question.

However there’s no question that gang intimidation and violence in nations that contribute many of the U.S.’s immigrants are major motives for coming into America. Likely the bill is meant to address specific and narrow cases, humanitarian crises that are incoming, rather than past humanitarian crises that happened in trickling and less noticeable numbers, building the population to our current number of illegal immigrants.

Safety and poverty are perhaps the two main reasons so many travel into the United Sates. It’s issues like these push factors that could be addressed by Congress rather than the political efforts we’re seeing now from Paul — and in combination with other much needed changes to the immigration system, they’d have positive effects on the real problems, rather than just political problems that will change a few months from now. Measures dealing with these root problems are not only preventive, but they would be good in combination with more hawkish measures Republicans might prefer.

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