Connect with us

Guest Columns

Border Reform Stalemate Foreshadowed by Hypocrisy of 2007

An inveterate independent looks back to 2007, when Democrats destroyed a compromise with a deliberate poison pill.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email



GOP Candidates Fight for Top Billing in Third Debate

The current debate in Washington over immigration reform legislation has unnervingly similar undertones to a debate that took place 17 years ago. One of our two main political parties was looking to get something accomplished. The other wanted to prevent progress as a way of aiding their presidential aspirations in the upcoming presidential election.

While the setup was the same, the parties took on different roles. The Democrats in 2007 wanted to prevent immigration reform from happening, while leading Republicans, most notably George Bush and John McCain, were working to get it done.

A delicate compromise was achieved with Sen. Edward Kennedy leading the negotiations for the Democrats. In an eerie foreshadowing of what happened on Capitol Hill last week, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 gave everything Democrats said they needed in the bill. Most significantly, it offered a gradual path to citizenship for most people living in this country already and expedited that process for so-called “Dreamers” (those brought to this country as children). It also vastly increased enforcement along the border, created a system of citizenship verification for employers, curbed kinship preferences (which liberals call “family reunification” and conservatives call “chain migration”), and expanded a guest worker program.

Then Byron Dorgan, a Democratic senator from North Dakota, introduced an amendment, purportedly to address the concerns organized labor expressed about guest workers. But the goal of the amendment wasn’t really to improve the bill. Rather, the intent was to use the amendment to kill the legislation.

The so-called “poison pill” amendment failed by one vote the first time it was introduced. The second time Dorgan introduced the amendment it passed. Barack Obama, then a first-term senator from Illinois (but already running for president), changed his vote – effectively dooming the legislation. And, yes, Joe Biden also voted for the Dorgan amendment. With the new Democratic additions to the bill, Republican support evaporated. The Democrats used this lack of Republican support to blame them for the failure of the bill. But Sen. Kennedy knew better. Furious, he went to the floor of the Senate and screamed at Dorgan.


No matter. John McCain was deprived of a legislative victory that would have helped him win Latino voters in the 2008 presidential election. Democrats successfully undermined the aspirations of millions of people while simultaneously giving themselves a cudgel they used to attack Republicans for years to come.

For those who doubt that Democrats would so callously treat millions of human beings for political gain, here’s a simple question. Why, in 2009, when Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, a 76-vote majority in the House, and Barack Obama in the White House, did they fail to act on immigration? Why didn’t they even pass the DREAM Act? The unmistakable truth is that they wanted to continue blaming Republicans for the failure of immigration reform to win votes.

Playing politics with our southern border, as House Republicans and their most-likely presidential standard bearer are doing today, is reprehensible – just as it was 17 years ago. Republicans should use this moment to address the border crisis instead of trying to keep the issue alive for political gain. The attacks from Democrats, however, need to be viewed with a full appreciation of the stunning hypocrisy at play here. Senate Democrats in 2007 showed more cunning at keeping their fingerprints off immigration reform’s failure, but they were no less guilty of its demise than the current House Republicans.

While there’s a grim irony in President Biden’s reelection campaign being harmed by his legislative subterfuge nearly two decades earlier, the unwillingness of partisans to solve problems when they see more political value in continued chaos illustrates the broken nature of America’s current two-party system.

Both of our major political parties are more interested in seeing the other side fail than in seeing our country succeed. The entrenched duopoly has decades worth of scores to settle – and future elections to win. Republicans and Democrats are no longer interested in solving problems for the American people. The only problem they seem to be trying to solve is, “How do I get reelected?”


The way voters can shrug off the yoke of this broken and corrupt system is by sending an unmistakable message to the partisan politicians in the nation’s capital, the message being that they can no longer go to Washington, D.C., and hide behind party labels. We, the voters, must insist that they start solving problems for the American people. If not, we should deprive them of the only thing they really care about: their incumbency.

This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email | Website | + posts

Greg Orman is a Kansas entrepreneur, author of “A Declaration of Independents,” and a former independent candidate for governor and senator of his state. His website is


Would love your thoughts, please comment.x