Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., is viewed as a key player in the immigration debate, with Democrats hoping he can be persuaded to back the Senate version of the legislation. However, Webster makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the Gang of Eight approach to the issue.
House Democrats think Webster can be flipped since he represents a competitive district and 14 percent of the voters there are Hispanic. The idea is to get about 23 House Republicans to back something very close to the Senate bill and squeak a compromise bill through both chambers.
But it seems Democrats will have to find one of their votes somewhere else. Webster sees plenty of fatal flaws in the Gang of Eight bill, beginning with the process.
"We have made a huge mistake in this Congress by accepting the fact that comprehensive bills are a solve-all. They're not. Look at what's happened with Obamacare. Look at what happened with the stimulus package. Look at what happened with Dodd-Frank and all these other bills that are major, all-encompassing bills," Webster told WND. "What the House plans to do is, one-by-one, step-by-step, in a methodical way, take up each individual issue and pass it as a separate bill."
So which small bill on immigration should come first?
"I think we have to seal the borders first. That was the mistake made in 1986," said Webster, who noted that doubts about border enforcement nearly stopped a heavily Democratic House from passing the bill and changes were made that still didn't result in a secure border.
Republicans and Democrats both insist they want border security, but how to verify a secure border remains a major point of contention. Although Webster did not explain who should be tasked with declaring the border secure, he did lay out what criteria he wants to be met before that can happen.
"You set thresholds. We would say 90 percent secure means that we have reduced the number of people coming across by 90 percent. You have to put the plan in place first. Then you fund it. What the House would be proposing is to come up with a way where we can build the fence, build the wall, hire the right people and come with the number it takes to do that and then implement the plan," Webster said. "That becomes the trigger. You've got to have that first before you do anything else."
Efforts to recruit GOP support for immigration reform generally follow along two lines. One is that the party needs this to attract Hispanic votes. The other argument is that bringing illegal immigrants out of the shadows will be good news for our economy. Opponents of the current version of reform say passage will result in exactly the opposite, both politically and economically. Webster said whether an immigration bill passes or not, President Obama is making economic progress and job creation extremely difficult.
"This administration has turned its back on jobs," he said. "It's turned its back on building the (Keystone) XL Pipeline. It's turned its back on producing oil in North America and not across the seas. It's turned it's back on businesses by putting extra regulations. It's turned its back on the coal industry. When you do things like that, you're killing jobs day, by day, by day.
"To me, the key is to get our economy rolling, and I think (immigration reform) doesn't play that much into it," said Webster, who blasted Democrats for trying to convince Americans to accept 7.6 percent unemployment as the new normal.