Glenn has always been a fan of Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) because of his fiscal conservatism and spending discipline. But Sen. Flake raised some eyebrows when he chose to join the so-called ‘Gang of Eight’ with the likes of John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Chuck Schumer to pass ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform.
This morning, Sen. Flake joined the radio program to discuss the latest developments in the immigration legislation, and it is safe to say things got a little heated. Glenn’s primary concern with the Gang of Eight’s proposal is the four Republicans are making too many concessions and not getting enough in return. Sen. Flake, meanwhile, attempted to defend the policies.
Glenn pointed out that Sen. Flake recently remarked “nothing focuses the mind like a bad election,” and “for a variety of reasons, its time” to take action with immigration reform. “I saw your quote,” Glenn said. “Is this being pursued for political reasons or security reasons?”
“Keep in mind, I’ve been pushing for immigration reform during my entire 12 years in the House of Representatives,” Sen. Flake responded. “I’m not a Johnny-come-lately just because of an election. I think that this makes good policy sense. And what makes good policy sense is usually what makes good political sense as well.”
Sen. Flake went on to explain what he sees as one of the most important part of the bill, spending an additional $500 billion on more manpower at the border. “That’s just the start,” he said. “We recognize we need better and more fencing, more manpower, more surveillance.”
Considering the promise of a better, more secure fence has existed for several decades now, Glenn could not accept Sen. Flake’s notion that this time around would be any different. “What is it now that the fence is going to get built,” Glenn asked.
“Well, it isn’t built now. Like you said, it isn’t complete,” Sen. Flake said “We do need more fencing. There are certain areas of the border that fencing does not make sense – it makes more sense to have surveillance and other things, rather than a barrier like that.”
“I respect you. I like you. I think you have done a great job in Washington. I think you’re one of the few that have kept your soul while there,” Glenn reiterated. “But you are talking to me on this issue like I’m a third grader. Like I don’t understand that we do need to do something on the border.”
“Could you please, without doing Washington double speak that sounds like John McCain from 1987, tell me how we are actually going to deal with this,” Glenn continued. “How you would believe the Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham actually are going to do anything this time?”
Sen. Flake explained that simply building a fence will not solve the problem. Instead, the bill will implement a ‘second border’ through e-verify.
“If people can’t work here, fewer will come to live here,” he said. “We’ll have a legal framework for people to come and return home. You combine that with the employer enforcement, and finally being able to determine if a Social Security number is not just valid but is not used by 12 other people around the country at the same time. That’s improvement. That’s a good thing.”
Furthermore, Sen. Flake explained that the ultimate goal should not be sealing the border but securing it. “Yuma, for example, every morning between the hours of 4 and 8AM you have 10,000 legal crossings of the border in one port, one land entry. And that’s a good thing because they come and work in our fields and return home. And so what we need is a secure border. We have a better situation than we did a few years ago. It needs to be much better still. But in order to do that you need not only reinforcements on the border and to strengthen the border. You need the workplace as well.”
In addition to the problems American’s face at our southern border, the Boston Marathon bombing has proven there is currently an equal, if not greater threat coming from overseas – those entering the U.S. on student visas, work visas, etc. “We have 15,000 people from hostile Muslim countries on student visas that haven’t shown up to their schools,” Glenn said. “How are you going to enforce that?”
“That’s exactly it. 40 percent of those here illegally now didn’t sneak across the border. They came on a student visa or vacation visa or tourist visa that have overstayed,” Sen. Flake said. “We don’t have an entry, and exit system. We know when they enter. We just don’t know if or when they leave. That’s a problem. It’s a huge problem that we have. And until we have an entry, exit system that works, we’re going to have this problem.”
“That is provided for in the bill. And funding is provided to bring it about,” he continued. “I’m not saying any system is going to be perfect. You’re going to have people sneaking across the border or overstay visas. But you’ve got to have an entry, exit system that works. That’s what we are trying to do with this bill.”
Stu was still concerned, however, that the comprehensive nature of the bill allowed for a path to citizenship that resembled amnesty too much.
“Amnesty is an unconditional pardon for a breach of law. This is not an unconditional pardon,” Sen. Flake explained. “Those who’re illegally and wish to stay will have to pay a fine… If you want to have RPI status, come out the shadows and work, then you have to pay the fine in order to get RPI status. That’s the bottom line. If you’re unwilling to do that then you can’t get on this path.”
But Pat wasn’t buying it. He referenced previous legislation from the 1990s that required similar fines that ended up being virtually impossible to enforce. People who avoid the fine will continue to live in the shadows, just as they do now, which means nothing will change as a result of this bill.
“It’s a long, arduous path. It really is,” Sen. Flake reiterated. “I submit that they will come forward… I think the vast majority of them will. If you take the flip side of that and say they won’t come forward, then what are we to do now? Why is the situation today, which is de facto amnesty, better than trying something like this?”
Glenn said that he will not be on board with the Gang of Eight’s plan until something is done about the border. Sen. Flake was quick to remind Glenn, however, that the only way to get something passed in a polarized Congress is to compromise.
“When you do a bill that can get through Congress, you do make compromises. There are things that I don’t like necessarily about this bill,” Sen. Flake said. “But the reality is there are only 45 Republican and 55 Democrats, and in order to get something through the Senate that will go a long way towards fixing the border and the situation we have now – you’re not going to have the exact bill that you want.”
“I do respect you,” Glenn said to Sen. Flake. “And there are not a lot of people that can come on the show and take this line of fire and do it with grace. You haven’t convinced me. But thank you for coming on.”