Phil Gramm: A Statesman Comes Full Circle

Washington is full of politicians who have forged long careers in Congress either lying to their constituents or offering lousy policy advice – over and over again.  Given that most of the politicians serve until they are carried out of the Capitol in a coffin, they often live to see the disaster from their own policies, and unfortunately, are in a position to exacerbate those disasters by repeating the same mistakes.  Immigration policy is a perfect example.


Many of the same congresscritters who lied to us about the 1986 amnesty bill are still in Washington peddling an even worse solution to the problem they helped engender.  In 1986, Chuck Schumer said the following regarding the Simpson-Mazzoli Act:

What is it not?  It is not millions of people cascading across the border….It is not welfare benefits for those folks immediately.  In fact, it’s in the bill right now that they cannot get AFDC benefits….It is not immediately wives, husbands, and children will come across. Not the case.” [Chuck Schumer on the House floor, commenting on 1986 amnesty bill].

28 years later, it is impossible to quantify how much the last two decades of illegal immigration – a direct result of the ’86 amnesty – has cost us in education, healthcare, welfare, refundable tax credits, and criminal justice.

On the other hand, there are rare instances when we can find a statesman in Washington – someone who has been consistently sagacious and visionary in their thinking for decades.  One such man is former Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX).  Gramm not only voted against the 1986 amnesty, he was one of the few to speak out against it on the Senate floor.  At the time he asked, “is there reason to believe that the people of America really want these amnesty provisions, that they are the price we must pay to try to gain control of our borders?”

While the American people have witnessed the failures of Simpson-Mazzoli over the past three decades, the political class is doubling down on amnesty.  Over the weekend, PJ Media reported on a Texas Public Policy institute forum in which a number of politicians discussed the imperative for amnesty.  Here is what happened:


But in the midst of a discussion that drifted toward how Republicans really ought to get on board with comprehensive immigration reform, a man stood up in the very back of the room to ask a question. Once he took the mic and spoke, heads turned: That’s former Sen. Phil Gramm. Over the course of a couple of minutes, Gramm made two points. One, when he was running and winning statewide in Texas, he voted against the 1986 immigration amnesty that President Reagan signed into law. In his next election, Gramm won a majority of the Hispanic vote in Texas — the only Republican to ever do that. Gramm scoffed at the notion that Republicans must support the immigration reform that’s on the table now in order to do better with Hispanic voters. He said that Republicans should talk about jobs and values, both of which bring the GOP and a majority of Hispanic voters into agreement. His second point was also salient: Why should any Republican sign onto any immigration reform that depends on Barack Obama to enforce it? President Obama can’t even be depended on to treat his own health care law properly. Why would he enforce border security provisions that he does not support? Sen. Marco Rubio has made a similar point, but that isn’t stopping him from trusting Obama anyway in supporting the Senate’s bill. A lawless president is a lawless president, full stop, and we have a lawless president who believes that he can rewrite and even gut laws after Congress passes them.


Senator Gramm knows more than anyone else that there is nothing “reform-minded” about amnesty.  It is nothing new.  We tried it before and it broke our immigration system.  It will fix the system it broke the same way Obamacare will fix the healthcare system, which has already been broken for years from mandates and restrictions similar to those proposed in the ACA.  Few politicians ever learn the lesson, but when it comes to immigration policy, one man never needed to make the mistake in the first place.

28 years later, a statesman comes full circle.

Cross-posted from The Madison Project


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