Gov. Bobby Jindal denounced a U.S. Senate immigration bill Tuesday as a government pork-laden power grab by Democrats that could demonize Republicans among Hispanic voters.
Jindal, the son of immigrants, shared his viewpoint in an editorial for “National Review,” which is a self-described conservative magazine.
The governor wrote that the so-called Gang of Eight bill passed by the U.S. Senate is a win-win for Democrats. Passage of the bill would grant amnesty to millions without resolving the country’s immigration problems, while failure would allow Democrats to tell Hispanic voters that Republicans are to blame, he said.
The so-called Gang of Eight group of four Republicans and four Democrats proposed the legislation, arguing that a majority of both parties want to fix the nation’s “broken” immigration system.
“If and when the folks in Washington want to successfully reform our immigration system, they will have to accept the simple fact that it needs to be done in stages. An all-or-nothing approach will likely yield what it usually yields — nothing,” the governor wrote.
At issue is Senate-passed immigration legislation — called the Gang of Eight bill — that drew a favorable vote from U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and criticism from U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La.
Republicans’ main complaint is that they want to strengthen border security before increasing U.S. citizenship.
The bill would crack down on Mexican border security, offer a path to citizenship after more than 10 years and expand guest worker programs in areas ranging from the sciences to agriculture.
The federal government estimates there are 11 million people living in the country without legal permission.
Under the bill, 700 miles of new fencing would be built along the U.S.-Mexico border, an entry-exit tracking system would be added and the number of border agents eventually would double.
Landrieu characterized the bill as implementing “more robust and smarter border security measures.”
The U.S. House is debating how to take up its own version of the bill.
One option is only passing border security bills. Another option is taking up a comprehensive House bill that’s still being drafted. The third, and currently least likely, is for the House to take up the bill passed by the Senate.
U.S. Reps. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, said they first want to secure the nation’s borders. U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, supports a comprehensive immigration approach, but is concerned about tailoring diversity visas toward high-skilled immigrants.
Jindal complained that the Gang of Eight bill would help promote Las Vegas as a travel destination, provide free visa applications for Hollywood and give Vermont an Obama-style stimulus program. He said many Democrats seem to care more about the pork than immigration issues.
“The critics will also say that conservative Republicans, even once the border is secured, will still oppose a pathway for turning illegal immigrants who are already here into legal immigrants. I disagree,” the governor wrote.
Jindal’s ideas include:
1. First, securing the border through fencing and technology.
2. Deporting those engaged in criminal activity.
3. Withholding welfare and unemployment benefits from illegal residents “for a substantial period of time.”
4. Requiring English proficiency, paying a fine and building up a long work history before granting U.S. citizenship.
5. Implementing a guest visa program to offer legal status to those who are here illegally.
Jindal’s parents, Amar and Raj Jindal, moved to the U.S. from India shortly before his birth to pursue educational and career opportunities. Jindal’s wife, Supriya, was born in India.
The governor’s parents settled in Baton Rouge, where they raised Jindal and his brother.
Jindal’s spokesman, Sean Lansing, said Raj Jindal became a U.S. citizen on Sept. 21, 1976. Lansing said the governor’s father, Amar, achieved U.S. citizenship a decade later, on Dec. 4, 1986.
“I’m an unapologetic advocate for immigration. I believe immigration is crucial for the health and growth of our nation. That’s why it’s so troublesome to see Washington in the process of botching immigration reform for the umpteenth time.” Jindal wrote.
ON THE INTERNET:
Jindal’s National Review essay is available at:
Jordan Blum with the Advocate Washington Bureau contributed to this report.