News & Politics

It's Time to Sink the Awful Immigrant Hate Bill -- "The SAVE Act"

Among its more awful provisions, are "verification" measures that require every citizen to get an OK from the government whenever they change jobs.

If there were political booby prizes handed out each year -- something like the Razzies for the Beltway set -- the award for Worst Legislation Proposed by a Democrat this year would have to go to Heath Shuler's misbegotten "SAVE Act, an attempt to pass a "deportation only" approach to the immigration issue. Of course, it not only reflects the worldview of the anti-immigrant wing of the party, headed by Rahm Emanuel, but it's a profoundly bad piece of legislation.

Among its more awful provisions, you may recall, are "verification" measures that essentially would require every American to get an OK from the federal government every time they get a new job or change jobs.

Let's face it: Not only is SAVE a bad piece of policy (more on that shortly) it's also incredibly shortsighted politically -- it's certain to alienate the very voters (working-class people and Latinos) on whom the Democrats' electoral future almost certainly depends. It's also a remarkably dumb piece of politics in the short term: How did Democrats let themselves get dragged so far to the right by a freshman with no previous background in dealing with immigration?

Earlier this month, Republicans tried to force the bill to a floor vote in the House, just before congressional recess, using a discharge-petition maneuver that so far has accumulated 181 signatures -- short of the 218 needed.

Some 49 Democrats signed up as cosponsors of the bill, but only eight have signed onto the discharge petition. So with Congress returning this week from recess, there will be a push from the GOP to get the rest of the 41 Democrats to sign on.

But the House leadership -- with the support of activists from within the immigrant and labor communities -- has been trying to hold the line, keeping the bill in committee for the time being. The question is how much longer they'll be able to do that without hearing more from their constituents.

At the bottom of this post, you'll find a complete state-by-state list, including contact information, of the 41 Democrats being wooed to sign the discharge petition. Many of them are vulnerable Dems running in conservative districts, and a number of them have been feeling pressure to let the bill go to a vote.

We're urging every reader who opposes this bill to check the list for members of Congress from their own districts or states, and then write or phone them directly to tell them how you feel.

It's been clear, as things have gone along, that Shuler -- who was described this week by National Republican Congressional Committee chair Tom Cole ("with a certain envy") as "to the right of Genghis Khan" -- is uninterested in discussion or negotiation. Because he has the complete backing of the nativist wing of the Republican Party, including Tom Tancredo and Rep. Brian Bilbray, his co-sponsor, he has stormed full speed ahead in pushing the bill forward.

Because it has remained bottled up in committee, Shuler has been complaining (somewhat dishonestly, as Howie Klein observes) that somehow John McCain is to blame. But the reality is that members of his own caucus are determined to hang onto the bill.
David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle, and the assistant editor of Crosscut.
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