54 Senators voted yesterday in support of an immigration proposal put forward by Senators Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mike Rounds (D-S.D.), and Angus King (I-Maine), the self-described "Common Sense Caucus". Did they know what they were voting for?
The proposal's language was still being tweaked on Wednesday but by Thursday morning, Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times had the scoop on some extraordinary details:
Not only would the bill enshrine Obama-era deportation rules, protecting most of the current 11 million illegal immigrants from fear of removal, but it extends those same protections to any illegal immigrants who can jump the border between now and June 30....
....The key language is on the last page of the amendment which Mr. Schumer introduced last Wednesday.
The bill reads: "In carrying out immigration enforcement activities, the secretary shall prioritize available immigration enforcement resources to aliens who arrived in the United States after June 30, 2018."
Originally it said Jan. 1, 2018, but that part was struck out and the future date was penned in....
The "Obama-era deportation rules" effectively exempted 87 percent of unauthorized aliens from immigration law by requiring enforcement agencies to only prioritize convicted felons, gang members national security threats and "recent" border crossers. The Obama rules, for instance, directed enforcement to only prioritize people who crossed the border illegally after January 1, 2014. This was a way of 1) acknowledging that past administrations had failed to control illegal immigration, 2) promising that the Obama administration would take the job seriously during its second term, and 3) ensuring that citizens of other nations who took advantage of weak enforcement in the past wouldn't be held accountable now.
The "Common Sense Caucus" attempted to reinstate the Obama rules legislatively, but changed the "we-promise-to-get-serious-now" date from January 1, 2014 to June 30, 2018. Doing so would ensure that people who entered the country illegally after January 1, 2014 wouldn't be held accountable for the Obama administration's failure to keep its promise and (inexplicably) extend that assurance to people who successfully enter the country illegally at any point over the next four months.
If American voters had asked Congress to devise a plan to cause another border surge, they could not have asked for much more than what the "Common Sense Caucus" came up with.
Rosemary Jenks, Director of Government Relations for NumbersUSA, has read more immigration legislation than anyone on Capitol Hill and she told the Washington Times that she had never seen anything like the June 30th provision.
Screen shots of the of the proposal circulated around social media yesterday and wound up in several stories from online news outlets. The outcry from the public and fellow Senators was enough to lead Sen. Collins to say she was would reconsider the language.
But in the hours leading up to the Senate vote...
The New York Times did not report the June 30, 2018 provision.
The Washington Post did not report the June 30, 2018 provision.
The Associated Press did not report the June 30, 2018 provision.
The Wall Street Journal did not report the June 30, 2018 provision.
Reuters did not report the June 30, 2018 provision.
McClatchy did not report the June 30, 2018 provision.
USA Today did not report the June 30, 2018 provision.
The Los Angeles Times did not report the June 30, 2018 provision.
We've seen this kind of epic fail before. In 2013, the Senate voted on - and passed - the "Gang of Eight" bill that included what would have set off the largest immigration increase in United States history, yet in the months leading up to the votes, none of the above newspapers reported the size and historical nature of that provision. The focus back then - as it was this week - was on the legalization provision. The proposed increases in immigration were deeply unpopular with the public and one would imagine the June 30th provision would be as well. By keeping those details out of news reports, the media helped the sponsors of both proposals present their ideas in the best possible light without having to defend the deeply unpopular aspects.
Largely in response to the June 30th provision, the Department of Homeland Security made the papers by issuing a statement opposing the Common Sense Caucus' proposal. But even there the legacy media managed to cover the controversy and avoid the details of the June 30 provision at the same time. Instead, stories focused on the soap-opera spat between Lindsey Graham and White House staff: entertaining gossip, to be sure, but at what cost to an electorate who deserve to know what their elected leaders are doing?
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Mar 2nd 2018 @ 1:55pm EST