Excuse me for questioning the sincerity of ultraliberal Massachusetts Democrats’ sudden interest in reforming the state's immigration laws.
At first glance, what the Bay State's Senate did Thursday afternoon is stunning. A seemingly shellshocked Boston Globe began its story as follows:
The Massachusetts Senate passed a far-reaching crackdown yesterday on illegal immigrants and those who hire them, going further, senators said, than any immigration bill proposed over the past five years.
In a measure of just how politically potent illegal immigration has become, the Senate, on a 28-10 vote, replaced a far milder budget amendment it had passed Wednesday. The sweeping provision, if it makes it into law, would toughen or expand rules that bar illegal immigrants from public health care, housing, and higher education benefits.
The amendment would also clear the way for courts, the state attorney general, and even average citizens to get new tools, including an anonymous hot line, to report illegal immigrants or companies that employ them to the government.
This seems way too easy.
Senate passage is only one step in the legislative sausage-making process. The Globe noted that the bill not only would have to "make the final budget plan lawmakers approve for next fiscal year, but it would also have to survive a possible veto by Governor Deval Patrick, who has been cool to such initiatives."
I would love to be proven wrong, but it seems that if the Senate's action quietly disappears from the state's final budget, Senators up for reelection will be able to run to voters and say, "See, we're tough on illegal immigration, but that darned House forced us to either drop our bill or shut down state operations. But don't worry; we'll get to it next year, after we're safely reelected." Sure.
Massachusetts Democrats could be going for a twofer, wherein the House and Senate both pass the bill and get bragging rights, only to see Patrick exercise his line-item veto power to surgically remove it from the state budget. Veto-override attempts in one or both chambers would "somehow" fall just short of the two-thirds threshold necessary to succeed. In the Senate's case, only two of yesterday's 28 supporters would have to change their minds. In such situations, the legislators will caucus and decide who the vote-flippers will be, selecting among those who are not up for reelection, have announced their retirement, or are in seats that are so safe they can't possibly fall victim to voter backlash.
The Globe article quotes a Massachusetts Tea Party activist who shares in the cynicism: “Whoo hoo! They voted for it. Must be an election year.”
That it is. Voters should cast their ballots based on candidates' lifetime records and statements. They must avoid being fooled by clever posturing over contrived unsuccessful efforts.