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The McCain-Kennedy Immigration “Reform” Revisited

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Senator McCain’s team is sending around the assessment of the new Romney ad from the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, which reads in part:

Romney’s description of McCain’s failed immigration bill — which was backed by President Bush — is so selective as to be misleading. The measure would have allowed illegal immigrants to seek legal status only if they first returned to their country of origin and paid a fine, and it was coupled with stricter border enforcement — key elements omitted by the ad. Romney called a similar bipartisan effort “reasonable” in 2006. It is not true that McCain backed Social Security for illegals; a Senate amendment would have allowed payment of past benefits only after immigrants obtained legal status.

I think McCain’s attempt to counterattack is lousy politics as it brings the spotlight back to the disastrous McCain-Kennedy bill that McCain co-authored in 2005 and forced with the help of Lindsey Graham through the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Senate floor in March, 2006 on a 12-6 vote that rolled the Committee’s conservatives. McCain-Kennedy 1.0 went on to the House where it died in a furious landslide of negative public reaction, until McCain and Kennedy revived it in 2007. With Rasmussen reporting that illegal immigration is the most important issues in the republican primaries, McCain’s decision to remind the world of his authorship of a bill widely described as an amnesty by the bill’s critics is a lousy decision that reflects the inherent weakness of the McCain campaign team.

Here is a Newt video blasting McCain Kennedy by name.

There’s more.

Here’s the WaPo editorial praising the 2005 bill: “Enter McCain-Kennedy.”

Here’s the DailyKos summary of the 2005 McCain-Kennedy and the comments thread is revealing.

As noted above, when McCain-Kennedy I.0 couldn’t get out of the Congress in 2006, McCain and Kennedy resurrected it in 2007 with the Dems in control of the Senate as this Boston Globe article recounts.

Here’s Senator Jeff Sessions critique of McCain-Kennedy 2.0. One of the problems Sessions had with the bill was its grant of social security credits to illegals for years worked illegally in the U.S.:

  • Loophole 19-Social Security Credits Allowed For Some Illegal Work Histories:
Aliens who came to the U.S. on legal visas, but overstayed their visas and have been working in the U.S. for years, as well as illegal aliens who apply for Z visa status but do not qualify, will be able to collect social security credits for the years they worked illegally. Under the bill, if an alien was ever issued a social security account number-all work-authorized aliens who originally came on legal visas receive these-the alien will receive Social Security credits for any “quarters of coverage” the alien worked after receiving their social security account number. Because the bill requires social security account numbers to be issued “promptly” to illegal aliens as soon as they are granted “any probationary benefits based upon application [for Z status]” (these benefits are granted 24 hours after the application is filed), an illegal alien who is denied Z visa status but continues to work illegally in the U.S. will accumulate Social Security credits. [See pp. 316:8-16, and pp. 315: 32-39]

Howard Kurtz is a fine reporter, but if anything Romney’s ad understates the many and deep flaws of both McCain-Kennedy bills, and if John McCain wants to discuss his legislation in detail, I am sure the Romney campaign would welcome it, especially those episode when Senator McCain forced his view on the Senate GOP caucus just as he did with the Gang of 14 and McCain-Feingold.

Romney’s ad isn’t “negative.” It is accurate. And that is why Senator McCain dislikes it so much.


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