In October, Numbers USA updated its report card on U.S. senators in regard to key votes cast from 2005 to 2008 on immigration policy. Numbers USA favors policy changes that would reduce the annual flow of immigration to where it was historically prior to the late 20th century.
On the Republican side of the aisle, U.S. senators who have held permissive views toward immigration in the past have either left office or altered their position over the past year, Roy Beck, executive director of Numbers USA, told CNSNews.com.
Most of the Democratic senators who opposed amnesty bills in the past will probably stick to their position or urge the leadership to avoid bringing up a vote – at least in the first year of the new Congress, Beck said.
“I’m feeling optimistic about the Republicans,” he said. “The majority [of Republicans] has always been with us, but the Bush White House had pushed the party in a bad direction on this issue and the leadership went along. This will not be the case come next year.”
There are about a dozen Democratic senators who have opposed “amnesty” for illegal aliens and who will continue to be a factor, Beck estimates. Although some may back amnesty now that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has been elected president, there likely will not be enough votes to secure passage of an amnesty bill, said Beck.
When the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S.1639), sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), came up for consideration this past June, the following Democratic senators went on record opposing the bill by way of voting against cloture (cutting off debate):
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.)
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.)
Sen. Kit Bond (D-Mo.)
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.)
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.)
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.)
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.).
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has co-sponsored immigration legislation in the past opposed by Numbers USA, shifted his position during the presidential campaign and might find it difficult to switch back and now push for an amnesty-type bill, Beck said.
“The big question we have to ask is, ‘Will McCain become Obama’s point man in the Senate helping to push amnesty the way he did for Bush, or will he stick with the enforcement-first position he took in the campaign?’” said Beck.
“He would not have been nominated if he did not take this position, and I don’t think he will be quick to go back on this position after telling people he had gotten the message on immigration,” Beck added.
All of the U.S. senators who ran for president in 2008 received low grades from Numbers USA. President-Elect Obama received a D-minus for his most recent votes, and for his career as whole. Obama voted against an amendment on the Senate floor (S.1348) to prohibit in-state tuition for illegal aliens and sanctuary cities for illegal aliens.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) also received a D-minus for her record on illegal immigration. Clinton voted against several amendments including S.A. 1311, which would increase interior enforcement against illegal immigration.
On the Republican side, McCain did not fare much better, receiving a D across the board for his overall career and for legislation that came up in the past few years. McCain’s support for “amnesty” legislation figured prominently in the scoring.
But the good news from the perspective of Numbers USA is that the handful of Republicans who held permissive views on border security and immigration are either leaving the Senate or have modified their views.
Beck identified Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Ala.), Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), John Warner (R-Va.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) as being particularly problematic.
Looking ahead, Beck is encouraged by the direction in which Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been moving. While his record as a whole is mixed, the Senate minority leader seems more inclined now to emphasize enforcement over amnesty, said Beck.
Two policy changes that would go a long way to curtailing the flow of illegals into the United States would be tighter worksite enforcement aimed against the hiring of illegal aliens and the elimination of chain-migration categories, Beck said.
Chain-migration refers to the influx of foreign nationals who are permitted entry into the United States on the basis of non-nuclear family ties.