Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe on the problems with the new immigration bill.
HH: First, we begin with Oklahoma United States Senator James Inhofe. Senator, good to have you on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
JI: Well, nice to be with you, Hugh.
HH: Senator, today there were some amendments offered to the immigration bill. I gather that the temporary workers program has been cut in half to a maximum of 200,000 a year. Is that what happened today?
JI: Well, yeah, that’s what happened, but there’s going to be more to come. There probably are, oh, four or five more amendments filed concerning that program. Hugh, I know you’re going to have Chertoff on, you’re going to have my best friend, Jon Kyl on, and it’s very rare that Jon and I are not together on virtually every issue, and this one, there’s a disagreement. But I’d like to put it in perspective, because those of us who were not involved…Jon was involved, Chertoff was involved, I was not, and the majority in this were not. What we received was something that was cranked out at 2AM on Saturday morning, and we got it on Monday, and of course, we had the vote, the cloture vote taking place Monday afternoon. And so it doesn’t really give you time to see what it is, and particularly, when you’re talking about a new program, this whole idea of a Z visa is something that’s very confusing to me, and we’ve been living with it now for two or three days. But we don’t get this same consistent pattern. Now the reason I was hesitant to go along with someone’s word with how all these things are so good is because I have one area that I have offered an amendment several times before. So when I got the copy of this bill, that’s the English language amendment, when I got the copy of the bill, I looked up to see how that draft that we were working from, starting on Monday, treated English as the national language. Well, to recall to your mind, because you and I talked about a year ago on this same subject, I had an amendment making English the official language of…the national language. It was nothing more than saying that you don’t have an entitlement to have anything that you want from government in any language other than English. That’s your only entitlement. Well, right after I passed mine with a vote of 62-35 on the floor of the Senate, the Salazar amendment came in and totally ripped mine apart. Now you know, and your listeners are pretty sophisticated, they know that what happened here was a lot of Democrats, primarily, were covering themselves by voting for mine, then turned right around, three minutes later, and voted for Salazar. When I looked up in this to see how that was treated in this bill, Section 702, is the Salazar language, and not my language. So that made me a little suspicious of what else is in there that we didn’t really know about, and still to this time, haven’t had a chance to thoroughly investigate.
HH: Yeah, Section 701 provides that English is the common language of the United States, followed by the announcement that this status does not diminish or expand any existing rights under the laws of the United States relative to the services or materials provided by the government. It’s humbug.
JI: Yeah, well, all it says is it doesn’t diminish or expand, so it’s the same, But I think what you did not read is the most significant part, if I can real quickly do that.
JI: Under definition, it says for the purpose of this section law, now that’s what we’re defining now, law is defined as including provisions of the United States Constitution, the United States Code controlling judicial decisions, regulations, and listen to this now, presidential executive orders. In other words, you’re taking the very famous now, Bill Clinton executive order of 13166, which gives an entitlement to anyone receiving federal funds, to have a translator there available in the language of your choice.
JI: Now that codifies something that was not codified before, so this bill actually made that situation worse.
JI: And now what I’ve got is an amendment, and I’m hoping that people, it’ll be on the floor tomorrow morning, they’ll think of every reason in the world not to…to oppose it. My amendment strikes section 702, and any of your listeners…look, there’s a new poll that came out just today, a new Zogby poll that actually had 83% of all Americans, and 76% of the Hispanics in America indicate that they support my language. These are Hispanics we’re talking about.
HH: Yeah, I love that provision. We’ll watch that amendment tomorrow. But you also have expertise, Senator, I want to tap into, with regards to the fence, because you know the Endangered Species Act, you know the Clean Water Act.
HH: Environmental activists are already staging protests about this fence. It’s been written up in Mother Jones, it’s been part of an MSNBC story yesterday. Does the law provide the secretary the authority to construct this fence notwithstanding the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act?
JI: Yes, it does, but it does not have the funding. Now you’ve gotten into my other area. I chaired the Environment and Public Works Committee for four years.
JI: And they, the test, in my opinion, was taken care of down south in San Diego, in that one stretch of fence that I’m sure you’ve talked about before.
HH: Very much.
JI: …that we feel that they have the power to do that, if he does it, if he does it, and if we fund it. But let’s keep in mind that this bill cut the funding pretty much in half, or at least the miles in half, that would have this type of fencing that’s there. In my opinion, they can do it, but they can’t do it without the funding.
HH: Now my…our common friend, Senator Kyl, says that the bill did not cut the fencing in half, it just staged it, 370 miles now, and after the bill’s in progress, the rest will be built. Will there be an amendment offered to construct the whole fence first, Senator?
JI: Yes, there will be.
HH: And will it have funding attached to it?
JI: See, I have not seen that yet. There are actually two of them that I saw that were filed addressing the fence issue. We kind of divided them up in trying to…and again, Kyl is right, in all fairness. But he’s just talking about how many miles of the fence would be authorized at this time. And you know, you can’t come along later and say all right, that’s done. It’s not going to happen until after the second four-year period of this new Z visa anyway.
JI: Now we’re talking about eight years out.
HH: Do you see this bill passing unless the fence gets built first?
JI: Well, I think, yeah, I think it could pass, and there are going to be a lot of amendments. But as it is today, the answer is no.
HH: Okay. I’ve got to ask you as well, this bill anticipates millions of background investigations, and millions of face to face interviews. Who is going to do those, Senator?
JI: Well, you see, that’s the problem, too. When you say, Hugh, you say millions, the low figure we’ve got is 12 million. The high figure is, I keep hearing more and more, but let’s say 25 or 30 million. This would be extremely difficult, and quite frankly, I’d rather you ask that question to Senator Kyl, because he…
HH: I will.
JI: He would not have supported it if he didn’t feel…and I want to give every benefit of the doubt to Senator Kyl, because he really studies these things. I want to see if there’s a way this can be made into something that we can support, something that does not fill, or at least reach my definition of amnesty.
HH: Senator Inhofe, have you read the San Antonio Express News series on immigrants of special concern entering the country from Middle Eastern countries, and countries with jihadist networks? It was…
JI: I have not read it, but I know what you’re talking about.
HH: Yeah, more than 5,700 arrests since 9/11 of illegals attempting to enter the country from those countries, and yet they’re treated like all the other illegal aliens in the country, the Spanish speaking, Mexican, Central Americans. Does that make sense to you?
JI: No, it doesn’t make sense to me, and again, that’d be a good thing to bring up and talk to, I’d say more with Kyl than Chertoff, because I think you’ll understand his answers better.
HH: All right. Now let me ask you, what is your sense of the politics right now? Are the phones calming down? Or is there still open revolt from the vast number of Republicans and centrists?
JI: Okay, now my phones have died down, mostly because people in my state of Oklahoma know where I am. Once that happens, then you don’t, then the phones do die down. I suggest that the phones that are in some other offices have probably accelerated. But in terms of the people in Oklahoma, we made it very clear when this first came out why this had to be changed before it’d be good legislation. We all want to do something about this. We agree with that. It’s are we starting in the right place? And frankly, we’re not…this all happened, anytime something comes out on Saturday, and then you have to vote it on Monday, it’s reason to be concerned.
HH: Oh, and 360 pages, I plowed through them on the weekend. I just don’t think many of your colleagues did. I wouldn’t expect you to. But…
JI: Well, it’s more than 360. 360 in the print it is now, but when you put it in bill form, it’s 1,000 pages.
HH: Oh, my gosh. So right now, are they anywhere close to having the votes to move this onto the House, Senator Inhofe?
JI: No, they’re not. We’re down right now, it’s 6:15. We are…I’m going to go up on my amendment, I don’t think is coming up until tomorrow morning, but they’re going to have votes into the night tonight, and I think that a lot of your listeners may want to look at it.
HH: They’ll be watching on C-SPAN. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, thank you, sir, for joining us. We’ll check back with you as the days on the immigration debate go by. Thank you, Senator.
End of interview.