Funding the war, and the border war

House Republicans are exploiting Iraq to play hardball on immigration reform.

By Page Rockwell
Published March 16, 2005 4:26PM (EST)

House Republicans have put the debate over immigration policy back in play this week, persuading Congress to amend the pending $81.3 billion war-spending bill to include the provisions of the Real ID Act.

We offered a breakdown of the Real ID Act last month, when it passed in the House: The legislation seeks to deny illegal immigrants drivers' licenses, require a standard federal ID card, and toughen entrance requirements for political refugees. It would also empower the secretary of Homeland Security to bypass any laws he sees fit to facilitate the speedy construction of border barriers -- pesky laws that, say, protect wetlands or workers' rights.

Despite the legislation's decisive passage in the House and its endorsement by the White House, its opponents were still well-positioned, with the bill facing strong opposition in the Senate, including from some senators favoring comprehensive immigration reform.

In fact, it appeared that the Senate might not even address the bill -- until immigration hardliners regained the momentum this week, by exploiting new legislation for funding the war. "In hopes of forcing the Senate to act on the bill, House Republican leaders [planned] to roll it into the first must-pass legislation of the year, likely to be the supplemental funding for the war in Iraq," reported the Dallas News.

Hardliners on the issue have also played up the fear factor, including raising the specter of a jihad brewing south of the border.

Even so, some "emergencies" are more urgent than others and the bill could still face lockdown in Congress. According to the Associated Press, "senators also worry about bogging down a spending package that's supposed to pay for emergencies by tacking on other bills such as the immigration measure."

Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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