Aaron Blake offers them a way out. Good enough?
House Republicans finally come around to comprehensive immigration reform, but — and this is a BIG but — they do it without a path to citizenship…
1. It’s a middle-ground bill. It brings illegal immigrants out of the shadows but allows Republicans to tell primary voters that they didn’t vote for “amnesty.” Republicans can rightly argue that illegal immigrants aren’t being given an advantage over those going through legal channels to earn citizenship.
2. Republicans can tell their base that they avoided potentially granting voting rights to millions of voters who they fear would vote for Democrats…
3. It would put Democrats in a tough spot. Congressional Democrats who are leading the immigration fight insist that they will not support a bill that stops short of a path to citizenship.
This is basically Rand Paul’s plan. Legalize illegals, but don’t give them any new path to citizenship. Just give them the right to stay and work and, if they want to apply for citizenship, they can wait until after the current applicants for green cards have been processed. So it is a path to citizenship, just … not a clear-cut path. That’s politically appealing for the reasons noted above; presumably it’d also be just fine with GOP-aligned business interests like the Chamber of Commerce, which care a lot about cheap labor and not much about whether those laborers end up voting. (Although they’ll care in due time if conservatives are right about which way illegals are likely to tilt politically.)
Ninety percent of the reason that Republicans have amnesty fee-vah, though, is because of the goodwill it’ll supposedly earn them with Latinos. What happens to that goodwill after the Paul bill passes and Democrats begin attacking it relentlessly as some sort of secret GOP plan to bar illegals from applying for green cards forever? Come 2015, after enough screaming about “second-class citizenship,” even Rand Paul will be eager to vote for a special path for illegals to protect his presidential pitch to moderates. And forget the whole citizenship thing for a second: How are you going to get Democrats to agree to a “path to legalization”? The whole problem with the Gang of Eight bill is that Schumer and the Democrats demanded that legalization happen right away, without any border security trigger. If the House insists on security first, Schumer et al. will walk and start screaming about second-class status for illegals. The goal of the House bill, at a bare minimum, should be to put Democrats on the defensive by crafting a bill that appeals enough to Latino voters that the Dems will be reluctant to shoot it down in the Senate.
Is there a bill like that out there? Maybe:
“My worst fear is slightly different,” [former Harry Reid aide Jim] Manley said, “and that is after some fits and starts, [House Republicans] send over something only dealing with the DREAMer kids and dare the Senate to oppose it.”
Border security in exchange for a path to full citizenship for the DREAMers, the single most sympathetic class of illegals. Democrats will demagogue that too — “how can we grant citizenship to these children while leaving their parents in limbo?” — but the public’s warm fuzzies upon seeing bipartisan support for giving kids a permanent stake in America should hold the left off for awhile. Hopefully the GOP takes back the Senate next year and then they can deal with the rest of the illegal population with a new security-for-legal-status bill written on their terms. Presumably that’s good enough for Beltway Republicans, who are interested first and foremost in building goodwill. Whether it’s good enough for business, given the comparatively minor impact DREAM would have on labor, is another question.
By the way, Obama’s apparently planning to fire a few shots across the GOP’s bow in Spanish-language media to warn them that he’s prepared to go full metal demagogue if they don’t move on amnesty soon. What’s easier for him to exploit, a bill that grants citizenship to DREAMers or a bill that leaves citizenship for all illegals hazy? I’ll leave you with this to meditate on while you form an answer:
Update: And here we go:
Two top House Republicans are writing legislation that would craft a path to legalization for young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children…
“These children came here through no fault of their own and many of them know no other home than the United States,” Goodlatte said in a statement. “This is one component of immigration reform — any successful reform plan must improve our legal immigration programs, strengthen border security and the interior enforcement of our immigration laws, and find a way to fairly deal with those who are currently in the country unlawfully.”
Goodlatte noted that it was part of the House Republicans’ “step-by-step” strategy on immigration reform.
Both of them voted against a version of DREAM three years ago, so this bill might be different in some particulars.