The Downton Abbey Exception and 4 Other Stupid Immigration Amendments

| Wed May 8, 2013 10:42 AM EDT

Defying expectations, Congress is poised to take a serious shot at immigration reform. A bipartisan group of eight Senators has agreed on a bill. One of the GOP's brightest young stars, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), has linked his political future to passage of the bill, and so far managed to wade through a flood of harsh criticism from the right. When the Heritage Foundation, the most influential think-tank in the conservative movement, released a dubious study Monday alleging immigration reform would cost trillions of dollars, it was attacked by not only liberals but also conservatives who are supporting the immigration effort.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will be taking its first crack at the bill Thursday. Republicans opposed to reform have now turned to a time honored tradition of oppositional behavior in the Senate: Offering a whole bunch of amendments to slow down the process and. If they're lucky, they'll be able to slip in a poison pill amendment—a change so noxious that it makes the entire bill harder to pass.

How many amendments? Well, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is currently leading the pack with seventy-seven. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has proposed 49, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is bringing up the rear with 24.

Here are some of the worst and most random amendments proposed:

Eliminating the path to citizenship

The centerpiece of immigration reform is a long, arduous path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) doesn't want that to happen. So he proposed an amendment that would make all undocumented immigrants in the US ineligible for the path to citizenship outlined in the bill. If passed, this is the sort of poison pill that would effectively kill the reform bill.

Beef with South Korea

Grassley has had long-running beef with South Korea since it placed tough restrictions on imports from the United States over worries about mad cow disease in 2003. Grassley's stampede of amendments includes one that would prevent South Koreans from obtaining visas designed to steer foreign investors to the US until the East Asian country "fully removes age-based import restrictions on beef from the United States." Though South Korean restrictions on US beef had once ground imports to a halt, most of the restrictions have been lifted as the result of a free trade agreement. (The GOP is in hock to the US beef industry).

But who can I underpay to cut my grass or drive my limo?

It's apparently really hard to find good (cheap) help these days, so Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has a modest proposal: Let's allow unauthorized immigrants to work—but only if they're doing low-paid domestic service jobs. Lee's amendment would exempt "services performed by cooks, waiters, butlers, housekeepers, governessess, maids, valets, baby sitters, janitors, laundresses, furnacemen, care-takers, handymen, gardeners, footmen, grooms, and chauffeurs of automobiles for family use" from "prohibitions on unlawful employment of unauthorized aliens."  Next: An amendment that would allow employers to feed said domestic workers stale cake.

No welfare for terrorists

You may have heard that story about how that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who are suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon, received public assistance. Sessions is graciously placating the conservatives for whom allegedly blowing up a crowd of innocent people wasn't enough of an outrage by proposing an amendment that would deny "terrorist aliens" welfare benefits. Some of you might be asking, "But didn't the Tsarnaevs receive public assistance before anyone knew they were terrorists?" Stop asking questions! Why do you love the terrorists so much?

Another welfare amendment (really!)

The immigration bill does not allow undocumented immigrants seeking legal status to receive welfare benefits. But that's not good enough for Sessions, who has proposed an amendment that would deny the path to citizenship to those deemed "likely" to receive "means-tested public benefits" at "any point in the future." If this sounds subjective and impossible to enforce, you're forgetting about the Department of Homeland Security's psychics.

All told there are now more than 300 proposed amendments to the bill, most of them from Republicans. (Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) has also proposed 24.) Many have been filed with the sole purpose of gumming up the works and making it harder to pass an immigration bill.

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