Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Confirmed: Immigration Bills Are Dead

I received this email update summary from a source up in Baton Rouge who was working closely on the immigration bills and whose credibility is unassailable:

There were 8 bills brought this session dealing with immigration. The results are as follows:

HB 25 (police checking status): Geymann – dead; passed through the House committee and House Floor but will not be heard in Senate committee by decision of the author

HB 24/1357 (harboring): Geymann – dead; passed through the House committee and House Floor but will not be heard in Senate committee by decision of the author

HB 26/1358 (transporting): Geymann - dead; passed through the House committee and House Floor but will not be heard in Senate committee by decision of the author

HB 887 (medical malpractice): LaBruzzo – dead; passed through House committee as restricting the cap on medical malpractice suits, morphed into an anti-immigrant bill on the House Floor due to an amendment that essentially became the body of the bill, challenged in Senate committee and the author decided to voluntarily defer the bill because he did not have the votes to get it passed

HB 1097/1380 (biometrics card): Harrison – dead; passed through the House committee but author decided to recommit the bill to its original committee once it was to be heard on the House Floor due to its incredibly high fiscal note; became a study resolution

HB 1157/1365 (renting property): Burns, T. – dead; passed through the House committee but will not be heard on the House Floor by decision of the author

HB 1103 (prohibits employers from hiring unauthorized aliens) – the author, Rep. Williams, never moved the bill

HB 1082 (prohibits state agencies from contracting with persons who employ illegal immigrants): Geymann – was assigned to House Appropriations but has never been heard
Batting a thousand. Not too shabby. But, as this source also noted, this is just the beginning of the fight. As long as the Feds don't act to reform a broken federal immigration system, we can expect to face such kinds of bills in future legislative sessions. For now, though, we can savor a small (even if ephemeral) victory.


oyster said...

Good news!

Leigh C. said...

Damn good start. I hope it continues on in this way.

Huck said...

Yes, oyster and leigh c., good news it is. I was talking to a friend yesterday who was equally involved in opposing these measures as a citizen and activist. And he's reserving his celebration for when the legislative session adjourns formally and finally. He's worried about some last minute end-run around the process. I can understand his hesitancy. I'm not so cynical; but who knows how this will turn in the end. So, I'm celebrating; but cautiously!

Eric said...

More cause for you to celebrate: A federal judge recently issued an injunction to prohibit enforcement of a specific part of the Oklahoma anti-illegal immigration laws that were passed last year (one that expanded the definition of 'discrimination' to include firing a U.S. citizen while retaining an illegal immigrant as an employee).

The ruling is being appealed to the 10th Circuit Court, and perhaps to the Supreme Court if that fails. Could be interesting.

Keep in mind, this is a law that passed the State Legislature by overwhelming, bipartisan, veto-proof majorities (88-9 in the House, 41-1 in the Senate), was signed by our Democratic Governer, and enjoys 88 percent approval rates in public opinion polls. What's more, it has been EFFECTIVE in causing illegals to leave the state, so much so that our unemployment rate has dropped to 3.1 percent and seems to still be dropping! That a federal court would interfere with this law is nothing short of judicial tyranny, and I don't say that lightly.

It has prompted me to revoke my membership and support for the Chamber Of Commerce (who filed the suit in federal court at the bequest of Oklahoma companies who were hurt by having to pay increased wages when all their illegal labor fled the state).

Huck said...

Eric - I'd have to look at the Federal Judge's reasoning behind the decision before commenting on the subject of judicial tyranny. But I do have to say that the way you present the issue, it does seem quite odd that this particular provision of the law would be overturned. Personally, I wouldn't have a problem with that particular element of the legislation that the judge overturned. But I gather it is part of a larger immigration law? I'd need more context before deciding. I would nonetheless say that there are legitimate reasons for judges to overturn legislation that passes with veto proof majorities in both houses, that is signed by the governor (regardless of party affiliation), and that has widespread popular support. The tyranny of the majority is maybe even worse than judicial tyranny. I'm not saying that this particular legislation falls into that category, and this could very well be judicial tyranny; but it really depends on the issue, judicial precedent, and respect for the rule of law as it functions in our society. It's why we have three branches of government and why our democracy is not dependent upon popular referendum exclusively. Just because the legislature, the executive, and the majority of the people want something doesn't make that something good and just. The judiciary has a role in telling all these other actors that they're wrong. And, as you well know, there are ways for the people and the legislature to tie the hands of the judiciary. One way is through the appeals process and taking it to the Supreme Court, if necessary. Another is to amend the Constitution. Both are difficult processes for good reasons.

All this is not to say that I disagree with this particular Oklahoma law. In fact, as you explain it, it seems both reasonable and just, especially since it appears to address an unfair practice of job discrimination. But, again, I wouldn't throw out the charge of judicial tyranny so easily. I'd really need to study it more closely. My concern is that the more terms like activisit judges and judicial tyranny become used, the more they will become ultimately meaningless and will come to represent the attitudes of anyone who simply doesn't like the way a ruling is handed down in any context. We should give the judiciary the benefit of the doubt, lest we undermine this institution. It should not be a ratificatory institution. And its independence is fundamental to our rule of law.

All this said, I should say that I'm not opposed to immigration reform at all. I respect and accept the right of any sovereign country to police its borders. Celebrating the demise of bad immigration legislation is not unwarranted; but that's not the same as advocating for open borders or a devolution of sovereign responsibility. I supported President Bush in his Comprehensive Immigration Reform measures. Not completely and not on every specific, but in principle I did. I think that's the appropriate, just, and fair way to deal with these issues, not at the state level, and certainly not at the state level with bad legislation that seeks to punish law abiding citizens for living nothing more than the golden rule with their neighbors irrespective of their neighbors' immigration status.