Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Say What You Mean

There was an article in today's paper, reporting on Pueblo's Bishop Tafoya's stand against changes in the federal immigration law that reportedly would make it illegal for churches to assist illegal aliens. Members of Congress, including Representative Tancredo from Colorado, reported that the bill (HR4437) approved late last year would do no such thing.

Now, my goal today is not to give my opinion on immigration reform. (We are stopping them from coming over here, so that we don't have to stop them from going over there.) Nor am I about to take on Tancredo (personal motto: There is not a single problem that would not be solved by getting rid of all of the illegals.) I'm not even about to pontificate about Catholics.

No, my pet peeve (ok, one of my many pet peeves) is the fact that there is even a dispute about what this bill would do. How many times have you heard something similar. A bill is being debated in congress. One member argues for the bill, saying that it should be interpreted a certain way. Another argues against it, saying the bill means something completely different.

Why don't they just save us all a big headache, and put the meaning of the bill into the bill. If it is ambiguous to the people voting on it, imagine how it will be to the people implementing it or to the courts interpreting it later. If I'm writing a document at work and there is disagreement on what it means, I really don't have a choice but to change the document, and our elected representatives should be held to the same standard.

Why would there even be a hesitation to clarify a disputed interpretation of a pending bill that is not yet law?
  • It would slow down the process. Well, good. If producing a better law takes longer, that is just fine with me.

  • The representative doesn't believe there is any ambiguity. That's called not willing to believe that there is another point of view, and that person should not be in elected office.

  • It will be figured out later. By the courts, I assume. Trying to figure out congress's original intent. Well, if you don't believe the courts should be creating law then you have no business putting them in the position where they have to. And the cost of figuring it out later is many times the cost of changing or adding a few words now.

  • Playing politics. By making the words in the bill more clear, it becomes more clear what you are voting on. If voters could see the full meaning of the bill spelled out in black and white, legislators might have to take just a bit more responsibility for their votes.

  • We can't get everyone to agree on what the bill should mean. This give them all a nice excuse, doesn't it. I thought the bill meant XYZ when I voted on it. I never dreamed it could be interpreted to do something else.
This brings me my first rules for elected lawmakers: If there is any doubt about the meaning of a proposed new law before it has been passed, fix it now. Do not vote for any bill with ambiguous meaning.

Back to the original issue. You be the judge. Here are the controversial words directly from HR4437:
Whoever ... assists, encourages, directs or induces a person to reside in or remain in the United States ... knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien who lacks lawful authority to reside in or remain in the United States ... shall ... in the case where the offense was not committed for commercial advantage, profit or private financial gain, be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined ... or both.

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