An Immigration Bill Gone Awry

At the beginning, there was broad bipartisan support in Congress for a bill that would crack down on illegal immigration. The voters were seen as demanding remedies, and Republicans and Democrats clearly understood that their proper political response was to pass a law that would suppress the problem. Now, more than a year after the initial bill was drafted, H.R. 2202 not only does not reflect the concerns of public opinion but sidetracks the main issue: how to crack down on illegal immigration. The focus of the legislation, awaiting further action in a House-Senate conference committee, has been lost along the way.

The main reason immigrants come to this country, legally or not, is to work. And let's not kid ourselves - there are jobs waiting for them. Any serious effort against illegal immigration should start by coming down on those who hire undocumented workers. Instead, the bill would punish the workers' children by denying them access to public schools. This risky Republican strategy has little to do with immigration reform and eyerything to do with the presidential election. The GOP leadership is not sure what to do with the hot-potato amendment by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley).

GOP leaders have tried several other approaches. They are now floating the idea of a yearlong study of the costs that illegal immigrant children impose on public schools. Already in the pending legislation is a requirement that parents of these children be charged $5,600 a year in tuition. In most cases, these are men and women making the minimum wage or even less. $5,600 per child? Ridiculous.

The immigration bill as it stands now should not pass. It is a cynical move by the GOP majority designed to force a presidential veto, one that could cost President Clinton some votes in California in November. That's politics, but it's wrong.

This article was obtained from the Los Angeles Times.

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