Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) made an unexpected comparison during a floor debate over the Senate’s proposed immigration overhaul on Friday: He tried to tie the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill to the recent news that the Obama administration has presided over a massive government surveillance program.
Using the PATRIOT Act as an example of a “thousand-page bureaucratic overhaul” that didn’t work, Lee said that the immigration bill could also have “unintended consequences.” This, he argued, was the case for an incremental approach to changing immigration laws:
LEE: Did the American people have any idea that the PATRIOT Act would empower the National Security Agency to spy on all Americans through their cell phones and computers? What makes any of us, least of all any conservative, believe this immigration bill is going to work out any better? The lesson we should be taking from our recent mistakes is not that we need to pass better huge, sweeping new laws, but that we should instead undertake major necessary reforms incrementally, one step at a time, and in the proper sequence. We need to face the fact that thousand-page bureaucratic overhaul do not achieve their desired goals, and they create far more problems than they intend to solve. We can achieve comprehensive immigration reform without having to pass another thousand-page bill full of loopholes, carveouts and unintended consequences.
What Lee proposes — a piecemeal approach that would require the passage of several elements of what’s in the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill — amounts to an effort to dismantle the legislation. Lee, and his fellow Republicans in the House who are pushing for the same approach, know that voting on the bill part-by-part makes it much more likely some provisions, like border security, will pass, while others, like a pathway to citizenship, will be left out.
Republicans have tried to seize on various news stories — like the bombing at the Boston Marathon — to derail the bill. But Lee’s argument that immigration reform creates more dangers than it solves is a weak one: A comprehensive reform bill will be better for national security. By removing a pathway to citizenship, a piecemeal set of bills would ensure that people will continue to live in the shadows in the US. Meanwhile, the Gang of Eight’s plan would create an entry/exist tracking system for visa recipients, and an E-Verify system that would comprehensively document currently undocumented workers.