Reclaiming America: What's In That H.R. 4437 Christmas Present? And Will The Senate Grinches Steal It?

[See also Donald A. Collins: HR 4437—A CLEAR Victory, If We Can Keep It]

With just four shopping days left before Christmas, there's a question on every immigration patriot's lips: will America ever get to unwrap its H.R. 4437 Christmas presents? . . . or will the Senate Grinches steal them first?

The House of Representatives delivered the biggest sack full of immigration law enforcement goodies America has seen in ten years, by approving a heavily-amended version of H.R. 4437 on Friday, December 16.

Even without the border fence, it was an unexpected early Christmas present.

About the successfully hard-fought provision for building a fence along the entire southern border, Rep. Tom Tancredo said it best: "What would be the best Christmas present to the American people is pictures of concrete being poured." [" Mexico Criticizes U.S. Immigration Bill Focusing Mostly on Border Security," by Ioan Grillo, Associated Press, December 16, 2005.]

The House passed H.R. 4437 in record time—just nine business days from start to finish.

The "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005" was introduced [PDF] on December 6 by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wisconsin), Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary. The committee approved it two days later. The House debated a fistful of amendments to the bill on December 15 and 16 before calling it quits on a final version.

But I have just one question here: what exactly is in this bill?

The immigration reform group Numbers USA made an heroic effort covering the H.R. 4437 debate last week on an up-to-the-minute web page. But without the actual text of the amendments, we average citizens had no way of knowing whether the executive summaries of the bill actually amend the Immigration Act as promised, or whether the bill is just a lot of unenforceable hot air. (The text finally became available today—Monday, December 19—and I'll be commenting on it soon.)

How was the man in the street expected to know what their elected representatives are really voting for?

The reality is that we weren't supposed to know. We're just supposed to take the Congressional staffers' summaries at face value, read the newspaper headlines and feel good (or bad, as the case may be).

Anyone capable of reading the Immigration Act and connecting the dots—and finding out what the bill really says—need not apply. Congress to citizens so inclined: "Go away kid, you bother me!"

But even without the full text of H.R. 4437, I could tell you what's NOT in the bill. I'll even do it blindfolded, if you like:

To find out what the EOIR is (Hint: the Department of Justice's dreaded Executive Office for Immigration Review) and why its head should be chopped off instead being soothed, read my absolutely definitive essay.

Basically, it's the bone in the throat of our deportation process.

Furthermore, I can tell you one flaw that IS in the bill:

  • As I wrote last week, H.R. 4437 actually undercuts the 1996 expedited removal authority already on the books. The new bill only allows the summary removal of illegal aliens found within 100 miles of a land border within 14 days of entry. . . the same standard already implemented in limited regulations by the Department of Homeland Security.

The "border crackdown" hype of H.R. 4437 conceals its destruction of the nationwide summary removal authority already on the books. H.R. 4437 institutionalizes the "get 100 miles past the border and you're home free" game once and for all.

What will become of H.R. 4437 now?

A VDARE.com reader sent this gloomy forecast via e-mail:

"[T]he final straw that broke the camel's back may emerge from...ready...the White House.

"Two weeks ago, representatives from the White House and the Republican National Committee met with the chiefs of staff of all Republican House members. The staffers were told that the Sensenbrenner bill, which has 35 co-sponsors, will not pass muster in the Senate, which comes as no surprise. Indeed, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) told me that the Hunter/Goode bill, which would build a fence along the Mexican border, 'has no support in the Senate.'

"The Sensenbrenner bill will probably be emasculated in the upper chamber and, in all likelihood, die in the Conference Committee. At that point—probably in late winter of 2006—the White House, claiming that they 'tried' to get the Sensenbrenner bill passed, will introduce its own guest worker/amnesty bill. I can say that this information was passed on by a Republican staffer whose trustworthiness is beyond cavil.

"As I write this (Dec. 16) the House is considering scores of amendments to strengthen or debilitate Sensenbrenner's well-intentioned, but incomplete effort. But for those who think we have reached the Promised Land, I offer two words of advice: think again."

So here we have H.R. 4437—a pig in a poke because of those mysterious amendments—probably on its way to being butchered by the Senate.

But the bill is still the best immigration law enforcement package to come out of the House of Representatives in ten years.

Step by hard-fought step, immigration patriots are on their way to reclaiming America.

Juan Mann [email him] is an attorney and the proprietor of DeportAliens.com. He writes a weekly column for VDARE.com and contributes to Michelle Malkin's Immigration BLOG.