Monday, March 31, 2008

Time to sink the SAVE Act

-- by Dave

If there were political booby prizes handed out each year -- something like the Razzies for the Beltway set -- the award for Worst Legislation Proposed by a Democrat this year would have to go to Heath Shuler's misbegotten "SAVE Act, an attempt to pass a "deportation only" approach to the immigration issue. Of course, it not only reflects the worldview of the anti-immigrant wing of the party, headed by Rahm Emanuel, but it's a profoundly bad piece of legislation.

Among its more awful provisions, you may recall, are "verification" measures that essentially would require every American to get an OK from the federal government every time they get a new job or change jobs.

Let's face it: Not only is SAVE a bad piece of policy (more on that shortly) it's also incredibly shortsighted politically -- it's certain to alienate the very voters (working-class people and Latinos) on whom the Democrats' electoral future almost certainly depends. It's also a remarkably dumb piece of politics in the short term: How did Democrats let themselves get dragged so far to the right by a freshman with no previous background in dealing with immigration?

Earlier this month, Republicans tried to force the bill to a floor vote in the House, just before congressional recess, using a discharge-petition maneuver that so far has accumulated 181 signatures -- short of the 218 needed.

Some 49 Democrats signed up as cosponsors of the bill, but only eight have signed onto the discharge petition. So with Congress returning this week from recess, there will be a push from the GOP to get the rest of the 41 Democrats to sign on.

But the House leadership -- with the support of activists from within the immigrant and labor communities -- has been trying to hold the line, keeping the bill in committee for the time being. The question is how much longer they'll be able to do that without hearing more from their constituents.

At the bottom of this post, you'll find a complete state-by-state list, including contact information, of the 41 Democrats being wooed to sign the discharge petition. Many of them are vulnerable Dems running in conservative districts, and a number of them have been feeling pressure to let the bill go to a vote.

We're urging every reader who opposes this bill to check the list for members of Congress from their own districts or states, and then write or phone them directly to tell them how you feel.

It's been clear, as things have gone along, that Shuler -- who was described this week by National Republican Congressional Committee chair Tom Cole ("with a certain envy") as "to the right of Genghis Khan" -- is uninterested in discussion or negotiation. Because he has the complete backing of the nativist wing of the Republican Party, including Tom Tancredo and Rep. Brian Bilbray, his co-sponsor, he has stormed full speed ahead in pushing the bill forward.

Because it has remained bottled up in committee, Shuler has been complaining (somewhat dishonestly, as Howie Klein observes) that somehow John McCain is to blame. But the reality is that members of his own caucus are determined to hang onto the bill.

"It's just really stupid politics," says Clarissa Martinez of the National Council of La Raza. "For now, it's not about how far Democrats are willing to go to protect Blue Dog Democrats, now it's about, OK, you have one freshman who's actually making you more vulnerable."

NCLR's leaders, as well as the SEIU and other interest groups, have been leading the charge against SAVE, for obvious reasons: It's simply another legislative attempt to scapegoat working-class people, Latinos especially, for a problem created by the status quo of immigration law. And with its fetish about "securing the borders," it's singularly ineffective: It doesn't even begin to address, for instance, the undocumented workers who come to the U.S. legally and simply overstay their visas -- people who constitute nearly half of the so-called "illegal immigrant" workforce.

"We're worried about what Mr. Shuler is trying to do," says Martinez. "In terms of the discharge petition, we're hoping that leadership's gonna stand strong and not allow that to happen. However, this strong stance also needs to translate to dealing with the substance of the bill and not just the procedural maneuver that's being used right now to stop it. Our ultimate concern is that substance.

"Obviously, forcing it to the floor without any discussion is problematic, but in this case, there seems to be too much willingness to go along with something that is basically going to result in every American having to ask permission from Washington to get a job or change a job."

There has been some previous discussion of the manifold problems created by Shuler's bill, notably by Digby, who explained that the bill:

[T]throws even more police power at Homeland Security, tons of money at police agencies, both militarizes AND privatizes the border (a neat trick), empowers the IRS to share information with other agencies and creates a new federal database that contains information about every American worker.

It's filled with all kinds of neat new requirements for all people who work for a living. If you are a person with two jobs, like a lot of people, I'm sure you'll enjoy this:

Notification of Multiple Uses of Individual Social Security Numbers

Prior to crediting any individual with concurrent earnings from more than one employer, the Commissioner of Social Security shall notify the individual that earnings from two or more employers are being reported under the individual's social security account number. Such notice shall include, at a minimum, the name and location of each employer and shall direct the individual to contact the Social Security Administration to submit proof that the individual is the person to whom the social security account number was issued and, if applicable, to submit, either in person or via electronic transmission, a pay stub or other documentation showing that such individual is employed by both or all employers reporting earnings to that social security account number.

The National Immigration Law Center has a complete rundown of the bill's provisions and the issues at play here. Among other things, SAVE would:

    • Expand the problem-plagued Basic Pilot electronic employment eligibility verification system (recently rebranded “E-Verify” by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, or DHS) into a nationwide mandatory program for all employers and workers in the economy.
    • Convert the Social Security Administration (SSA) “no-match” letter program into a blunt immigration enforcement tool by requiring employers to fire workers with mismatched information unless the workers can fix the problem within 10 days (70 percent of errors in SSA’s database pertain to U.S. citizens).
    • Require all individuals who work for more than one employer at the same time to provide proof of employment to SSA before their Social Security account can be credited.
    • Override current confidentiality of tax and Social Security information by dumping all reported anomalies such as multiple use of a Social Security number (SSN) and mismatches into a DHS database while providing few if any protections against misuse of such information.
    • Continue the exponential but ineffective increase in the number of Border Patrol agents that we have seen in recent years without providing for any balancing protections needed to hold the government accountable for reported abusive practices.
    • Continue to pour even more money into infrastructure and technological gadgetry along the southern border without addressing the problems of mismanagement that have tainted the massive contracts that have been let in recent years.
    • Expand the scope of activity that can be prosecuted as “alien smuggling” and narrow the protections from such prosecution enjoyed by religious workers.
    • Provide incentives for more state and local police to enforce immigration laws. (Police nationwide have been reluctant to embrace such enforcement because it detracts from their core mission of preventing crime and catching criminals.)
    • Continue the recent unprecedented increase in immigration incarceration capacity from 27,500 to 35,500 beds while providing for none of the reforms that human rights advocates have urged in response to well-documented abuses in current detention facilities.

It's also worth remembering, of course, that not only is SAVE endorsed by the Tancredo wing of the GOP, it also enjoys the avid support of FAIR -- recently designated a hate group by the SPLC -- but also such like-minded souls as the David Duke and Stormfront factions.

"We know that the anti-immigrant folks are definitely stirring the pot on this," says Martinez. "And we know that the strategy on the Republican side to force the discharge petition right before recess was definitely to create that environment."

The current problem, however, lies within the Democratic Emanuel-Shuler faction. "What we've heard is that they keep saying to people to go visit them -- that in conversations they can be more upfront, and that's that they need a vote on something. And that's the pressure to get on board with Shuler -- that's the only vote out there.

"That takes us back to the mother of all conversations on immigration -- that when you have a leadership that is not articulating that position and working with its members to articulate its position, you either allow your enemy to define you, which is Republicans are doing by trying to label them soft on immigration, or you allow somebody who has no taste for the substance and is a freshman to be dragging the whole party."

Republicans, Martinez says, are going to put the squeeze on vulnerable Democrats in the coming weeks. And that's where ordinary citizens come in.

As we suggested, check the following list for representatives within your district or state to whom you can write or phone. (Folks from Pennsylvania and Tennessee will have their work cut out for them.) If there isn't anyone who fits, feel free to write any or all of those listed in any event. Rather than use any kind of boilerplate, voice your opposition in your own words (and feel free to explore any of the above links to help).

A number of those listed are vulnerable -- notably Jerry McNerney, Kristin Gillibrand, Jim Matheson, Ron Klein, Paul Kanjorski, Jason Altmire, and Steve Kagen, all of whom have tough races this fall (Kanjorski, in fact, is running against a rabid nativist). For most of these, simply hearing from constituents and donors who oppose SAVE will give them reason to stand tough, especially if we help them think about how they can frame the immigration debate in a forward-looking way.

Some of them -- notably Paul Hodes, Joe Sestak, and Patrick Murphy -- are good guys who should be relatively willing to listen to these concerns. One of them -- Leonard Boswell -- faces a tough primary challenge from a more progressive Democrat (Matthew Grimm at Down With Tyranny has much more on Boswell's race with Ed Fallon; it seems likely that contacting Fallon could be productive as well). Mark Udall is running for the Senate; and Bud Davis has announced he's retiring; both should be responsive to pleas to do the right thing here. Likewise, Artur L. Davis -- despite his close proximity to Emanuel politically -- is bucking for a spot with the Democratic Caucus Leadership, so he should listen to constructive pressure from progressives. And of course, there are Blue Dogs and really not-very-progressive Dems on the list: Allen Boyd, Sanford Bishop, Jim Marshall, Melissa Bean, Baron Hill, Charles Melancon, Bart Stupak, David Boren, and Zachary Space. Your mileage may vary regarding the effectiveness of contacting them, but it never hurts for them to hear from the progressive side.

Others are fence-sitters who don't face particularly tough challenges this fall: Marion Berry, Mike Ross, Ed Perlmutter, Peter Visclosky, Michael Arcuri, Brian Higgins, Tim Ryan, Robert Brady, John Murtha, Tim Holden, Lincoln Davis, Jim Cooper, Gordon Bart, John Tanner, Ciro Rodriguez, Rick Boucher, and Brian Baird. These folks will probably need the most bucking up of any group.

The important thing is to make contact and let them hear that there are plenty of Americans, plenty of their constituents, who want them to do the right thing and get a spine in the face of this kind of destructive legislation.

The list:

5th District:

Robert E. (Bud) Cramer Jr.
2184 Rayburn House Office Building 2184 RHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-0105
Phone: (202) 225-4801
Fax: (202) 225-4392

7th District:
Artur Davis
208 Cannon House Office Building 208 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-0107
Phone: (202) 225-2665
Fax: (202) 226-9567

1st District:
Marion Berry
2305 Rayburn House Office Building 2305 RHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-0401
Phone: (202) 225-4076
Fax: (202) 225-5602

4th District:
Mike Ross
314 Cannon House Office Building 314 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-0404
Phone: (202) 225-3772
Fax: (202) 225-1314

11th District:
Jerry McNerney
312 Cannon House Office Building 312 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-0511
Phone: (202) 225-1947
Fax: (202) 225-4060

2nd District:
Mark Udall
100 Cannon House Office Building 100 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-0602
Phone: (202) 225-2161
Fax: (202) 226-7840

7th District:
Ed Perlmutter
415 Cannon House Office Building 415 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-0607
Phone: (202) 225-2645
Fax: (202) 225-5278

2nd District:
F. Allen Boyd
1227 Longworth House Office Building 1227 LHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-0902
Phone: (203) 225-5235
Fax: (202) 225-5615

22nd District:
Ron Klein
313 Cannon House Office Building 313 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-0922
Phone: (202) 225-3026
Fax: (202) 225-8398

2nd District:
Sanford D. Bishop Jr.
2429 Rayburn House Office Building 2429 RHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-1002
Phone: (202) 225-3631
Fax: (202) 225-2203

8th District:
Jim Marshall
504 Cannon House Office Building 504 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-1003
Phone: (202) 225-6531
Fax: (202) 225-3013

8th District:
Melissa L. Bean
318 Cannon House Office Building 318 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-1308
Phone: (202) 225-3711
Fax: (202) 225-7830

3rd District:
Leonard L. Boswell
1427 Longworth House Office Building 1427 LHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-1503
Phone: (202) 225-3806
Fax: (202) 225-5608

1st District:
Peter J. Visclosky
2256 Rayburn House Office Building 2256 RHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-1401
Phone: (202) 225-2461
Fax: (202) 225-2493

9th District:
Baron P. Hill
223 Cannon House Office Building 223 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-1409
Phone: (202) 225-5315
Fax: (202) 226-6866

3rd District:
Charlie Melancon
404 Cannon House Office Building 404 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-1803
Phone: (202) 225-4031
Fax: (202) 226-3944

1st District:
Bart Stupak
2352 Rayburn House Office Building 2352 RHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-2201
Phone: (202) 225-4735
Fax: (202) 225-4744

2nd District:
Paul W. Hodes
506 Cannon House Office Building 506 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-2902
Phone: (202) 225-5206
Fax: (202) 225-2946

20th District:
Kirsten E. Gillibrand
120 Cannon House Office Building 120 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-3220
Phone: (202) 225-5614
Fax: (202) 225-1168

24th District:
Michael A. Arcuri
327 Cannon House Office Building 327 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-3224
Phone: (202) 225-3665
Fax: (202) 225-1891

27th District:
Brian Higgins
431 Cannon House Office Building 431 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-3227
Phone: (202) 225-3306
Fax: (202) 226-0347

2nd District:
Dan Boren
216 Cannon House Office Building 216 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-3602
Phone: (202) 225-2701
Fax: (202) 225-3038

17th District:
Tim Ryan
1421 Longworth House Office Building 1421 LHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-3517
Phone: (202) 225-5261
Fax: (202) 225-3719

18th District:
Zachary T. Space
315 Cannon House Office Building 315 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-3518
Phone: (202) 225-6265
Fax: (202) 225-3394

1st District:
Robert A. Brady
206 Cannon House Office Building 206 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-3801
Phone: (202) 225-4731
Fax: (202) 225-0088

4th District:
Jason Altmire
1419 Longworth House Office Building 1419 LHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-3804
Phone: (202) 225-2565
Fax: (202) 226-2274

7th District:
Joe Sestak
1022 Longworth House Office Building 1022 LHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-3807
Phone: (202) 225-2011
Fax: (202) 226-0280

8th District:
Patrick J. Murphy
1007 Longworth House Office Building 1007 LHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-3808
Phone: (202) 225-4276
Fax: (202) 225-9511

11th District:
Paul E. Kanjorski
2188 Rayburn House Office Building 2188 RHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-3811
Phone: (202) 225-6511
Fax: (202) 225-0764

12th District:
John P. Murtha
2423 Rayburn House Office Building 2423 RHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-3812
Phone: (202) 225-2065
Fax: (202) 225-5709

17th District:
Tim Holden
2417 Rayburn House Office Building 2417 RHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-3817
Phone: (202) 225-5546
Fax: (202) 226-0996

4th District:
Lincoln Davis
410 Cannon House Office Building 410 CHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-4204
Phone: (202) 225-6831
Fax: (202) 226-5172

5th District:
Jim Cooper
1536 Longworth House Office Building 1536 LHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-4205
Phone: (202) 225-4311
Fax: (202) 226-1035

6th District:
Bart Gordon
2310 Rayburn House Office Building 2310 RHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-4206
Phone: (202) 225-4231
Fax: (202) 225-6887

8th District:
John S. Tanner
1226 Longworth House Office Building 1226 LHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-4208
Phone: (202) 225-4714
Fax: (202) 225-1765

9th District:
Steve Cohen
1004 Longworth House Office Building 1004 LHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-4209
Phone: (202) 225-3265
Fax: (202) 225-5663

23rd District:
Ciro D. Rodriguez
2458 Rayburn House Office Building 2458 RHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-4323
Phone: (202) 225-4511
Fax: (202) 225-2237

2nd District:
Jim Matheson
1323 Longworth House Office Building 1323 LHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-4402
Phone: (202) 225-3011
Fax: (202) 225-5638

9th District:
Rick Boucher
2187 Rayburn House Office Building 2187 RHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-4609
Phone: (202) 225-3861
Fax: (202) 225-0442

3rd District:
Brian Baird
2443 Rayburn House Office Building 2443 RHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-4703
Phone: (202) 225-3536
Fax: (202) 225-3478

8th District:
Steve Kagen
1232 Longworth House Office Building 1232 LHOB
Washington, D.C., District of Columbia 20515-4908
Phone: (202) 225-5665
Fax: (202) 225-5729

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

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