In politics, it always comes down to timing. And right now, it appears the timing just isn’t right for congressional Republicans to take up an immigration overhaul…
“It’s premature to say it’s over. In my discussions with the leadership offices, what they’re saying is they can’t do it now, they don’t have the votes now,” said John Feehery, president of communications for Quinn Gillespie, a consulting and lobby shop. “Their might be another time when they can get the votes,” said Feehery, a former top House aide. “But we’ve got a debt limit [vote] and this has been a distraction.”…
“The politics of immigration have never been perfect for anybody ever,” says Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Immigration is just one of those issues that’s difficult politically. And I don’t know if there’s ever a perfect time for immigration reform. In some ways it’s like dealing with entitlement reform. Has there ever been a good political time to deal with that?”
Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, told msnbc in a separate interview on Friday that it was likely Boehner was buying time while leaders worked on a fuller policy proposal to address GOP concerns and dealt with more immediate issues, like the debt ceiling.
“What I heard [Boehner] saying is ‘Let’s keep working immigration through the legislative process, we’ll get to it later in the Spring, but between now and then let’s talk about this nebulous issue of trust,’” he said…
“I think the opponents are getting traction with the argument of ‘Why now?’” Noorani said. “I can’t see a scenario in 2016 where Republicans have a better chance for claiming the mantle of victory on immigration reform. They’re going to be in the midst of a presidential primary where the field will be dragged to the right. Does anyone really think Ted Cruz is all of a sudden going to be calling for immigration reform in 2016?”
So maybe immigration is dead, or maybe this July 2013 report from the Huffington Post is just as applicable today: “Immigration reform is not dead. The doom and gloom is being fed, at least in part, by GOP leadership, to help position them politically for the coming fight.”
If that’s the case, GOP leaders have successfully established “lack of trust in Obama” as the primary roadblock to reform. It’s possible this is all about messaging heading into the midterm elections, but it could also be an attempt to set up a dramatic “game changing” moment to clear the way for legislation in the House…
Some opponents of comprehensive reform have suggested that Obama could announce he is appointing a Republican to lead a special task force to secure the border, or something along those lines, which would allow a sufficient number of Republicans to declare “problem solved” and pass legislation out of the House. Maybe that sounds a tad conspiratorial, but it is probably less preposterous than the media’s insistence that what Boehner said Thursday has any bearing on immigration reform’s prospects this year.
The populist wing of the party has talked itself into believing the zero-sum economics that immigrants steal jobs from U.S. citizens and reduce American living standards. Neither claim is true, but Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and the Heritage Foundation might as well share research staffs with the AFL-CIO.
So great is the House GOP fear of a talk-radio backlash that it won’t even pass smaller bills that 75% of Republicans agree on. There will be nothing to codify the legal status of children of illegal immigrants who have lived here for decades. And no expanded green cards for foreign graduates of U.S. colleges, a policy Mitt Romney endorsed. And no cleaning up the work-visa morass that has obliged U.S. farmers to hire illegals to harvest their crops.
The result of doing nothing will be a de facto “amnesty” in which 11 million illegal immigrants will continue to work using fake documents. Mr. Obama will look for ways to grant more of them legal status using executive power, and the GOP will look even more unwelcoming to minorities.
Some Republicans who do want to vote for immigration reform say they don’t want to divide the party over such a contentious issue in an election year. Better to take this up in 2015, they say. But the opponents will raise the same furor whenever it comes up, and Democrats will be less likely to compromise figuring they can use the issue to drive minority voter turnout in 2016.
But what happens if the Republican party slackens in its commitment to protecting wages and employment? Several decades ago, the GOP began winning the white working class in the South, and more recently it has done so in the border states (Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia). Yet its advance in the Midwest has stalled. Ohio remains less than a sure thing, even though its demographics have changed little. Pennsylvania and Minnesota are creeping closer to the Republican party, but have not yet flipped. Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin remain frustratingly elusive.
These are all states where Republicans regularly win statewide, yet lose presidential contests, in part because Democrats successfully tag GOP nominees as heartless plutocrats. The only way for the GOP to shatter this image is through an explicit and relentless commitment to pocket-book issues of concern to average Americans. A comprehensive immigration bill that lowers wages is a giant step in the wrong direction…
In 1960, Barry Goldwater blasted the policies of Dwight Eisenhower as a “dime store New Deal.” This was an exaggeration, but Goldwater was on to something. The Republican party did not enjoy enduring successes until Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980, when the party articulated a compelling alternative to New Deal/Great Society liberalism. So it goes with immigration reform. Offering a “lite” version of the Democratic proposal is poor political strategy, for the party will always be outbid. By contrast, offering a robust critique and a sensible alternative is the proven way to turn the party’s fortunes around.
Sometimes politics really is this simple. After all the arguments about economics and assimilation, people understand if they are viewed as a threat to the predominant culture. They know if their voice is not welcome in the national chorus. And this does have implications for political philosophy. Kemp — the GOP congressman and vice presidential candidate who described himself as a “bleeding-heart conservative” — passionately believed that human beings, as a rule, are economic and social advantages, the ultimate sources of energy, creativity and wealth. This included anyone, of any background, who happened to be in front of him and smothered by his enthusiastic attentions. Kemp strongly rejected the notion — common in every generation — that the current cohort of immigrants are somehow inferior to immigrants past.
I’m sorry to wax nostalgic — but not really. I saw how a Republican politician could treat immigrants and minorities as if they were valued national possessions. And I saw Kemp’s frustration with the direction of his party. “We sound like we don’t want immigration,” he said. “We sound like we don’t want black people to vote for us. What are we going to do — meet in a country club in the suburbs one day?”…
But the most important change that is needed is the hardest to achieve: A genuine welcome to the party. And an honest prayer: Dios derramó su gracia sobre ti.