I understand why Obama, who’s speaking about immigration this morning, wants to push the issue. When your opponent has just finished nearly tearing itself apart over defunding ObamaCare, why not bait it with amnesty to see if it’ll tear itself apart further? What I don’t understand is why House GOP leaders would take the bait. Boehner said yesterday in response to a question that he hasn’t ruled out bringing immigration back up this year. Normally I’d dismiss that as basic pandering, to show Latino voters that this is still a priority among the caucus even if it isn’t, but other GOPers like Mario Diaz-Balart claim that a “number” of Republicans are negotiating over a series of piecemeal immigration bills — and, he says, they understand that Democratic votes will be needed to pass them, which may or may not mean that Boehner’s prepared to violate the Hastert Rule (again) to get this done. Why anyone — anyone — in the party would want to distract the public right now with a shiny object when newspapers are filled with stories about Healthcare.gov’s meltdown imperiling ObamaCare, I can’t begin to imagine. Bad enough that they’d follow through on a quixotic play like “defund,” but then to not follow through by focusing all the party’s messaging on O-Care when Obama’s desperately trying to change the subject by reviving immigration? That’s a firing offense, quite apart from the merits or lack thereof of whatever immigration bill they end up opposing.
We’ll see what Boehner does. In the meantime, Darrell Issa’s decided to introduce his own immigration bill — one that would grant illegals “temporary” legal status for six years while America figures out what permanent track to put them on. Show of hands: Who thinks Congress will muster the will to revoke that “temporary” status for those who don’t qualify for permanent status when the six-year period is up?
Issa’s forthcoming legislation takes elements from similar legislation he introduced in December 2003, the Alien Accountability Act. The six-year period is intended to whittle down the undocumented immigrant population into several categories, such as immigrants with family ties to U.S. citizens or immigrants who want to participate in a guest-worker program.
Bringing undocumented immigrants out “of the shadows” would also help the government identify undocumented immigrants with a criminal background, who would be deported from the United States, Issa said.
“If somebody has a nexus that would reasonably allow them to become permanent residents and American citizen, we should allow them to do that,” Issa said. He added: “Our view is that long before six years, people would be in those categories heading toward some other pathway, in a guest worker program, or of course, have left the country.”
Conservatives in the House have been crowing lately that they won’t go to a conference committee with the Senate for fear that the final product will look too much like the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive bill, but if the alternative is to grant fake “temporary” amnesty to illegals without absolute assurance of border-security improvements first, I don’t see what the material difference is. That reminds me of the plan to grant legal status to illegals while barring them from any citizenship track; amnesty fans have been receptive to that because they know the citizenship bar will be lifted over time. If the House GOP sincerely believes in the “piecemeal” approach to comprehensive reform, I don’t know why they’re not focused entirely on drafting border-security legislation right now. That’s the first step in piecemeal passage; if they’re already looking past that to the legalization step, then they’re obviously more concerned with voter perceptions than they are with policy.
Rich Lowry wonders: Is a new immigration push the price of having stuck with the “defund” strategy all the way to the point of a government shutdown?
1) The Republican leadership is going to feel pressure to do some sort of bi-partisan pivot in a misbegotten attempt to repair the party’s image, which at least for now is uniformly in the toilet in every poll.
2) The political judgment of the groups and members who favored the shutdown strategy and most strongly oppose amnesty is going to be highly suspect after defunding didn’t work. This will give them less influence in the immigration fight than they would have had otherwise.
3) The supporters of defunding in the House could use a few dozen members to drive the rest of the caucus. The dynamic will be different on immigration. Because Democrats all opposed any fiscal measure offered by the Republican leadership, the votes of those few dozen members were essential to passing anything. On immigration, Democrats could well support incremental immigration measures to get to a conference with the Senate, meaning a few dozen Republican votes against don’t mean anything anymore.
In other words, “defund” was the cookie they gave to tea partiers. Now they need to give a cookie to the establishment for putting them through it, and there’s no cookie tastier than amnesty. Business groups who are angry at tea partiers over the shutdown have been begging for immigration reform for years, and because reform polls well on balance, it would in theory help revive the GOP’s standing somewhat among the wider electorate. Best of all, as Lowry says, because RINOs in the House stuck with “defund” almost to the very end, they’ll be less inclined to listen to tea partiers again if/when immigration comes to the floor. I still think Boehner’s unlikely to pursue it, just because the rift it would cause between the center and the right might be irreparably deep in the near term after the shutdown debacle, but if they do it, this is why. They’ve been eager ever since November to do something to rebuild the party’s brand and now, post-shutdown, they’re more eager than ever. Since the beginning of the year, they’ve fixated on immigration as a magic bullet to achieve their goal. No surprise really that they’d turn back to it now.