The Republican Party is seemingly on the verge of embracing so-called comprehensive immigration reform. Using a tactic best described as “calculated incrementalism,” House Republicans plan to pass a series of individual bills addressing various aspects of immigration reform, which will then be combined in conference with the Senate bill. Former House Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) cut right to the heart of the subterfuge, saying that the Republicans’ promise “to act tough on border security while looking to secure amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants has become infuriatingly all-too-familiar.”
Indications that House Republicans plan to acquiesce to amnesty were revealed by House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) last Sunday. Cantor was repeatedly asked if the House would put 11 million illegal aliens on the so-called “pathway to citizenship.” Cantor responded that, while his chamber would not be taking up the Senate version of the bill, they would be taking the position that the system is “broken” and “we want to fix it.” He also expressed support for the House version of the DREAM Act, because children should not he held “liable for illegal acts of their parents.”
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) appears equally on board. In an interview with the National Journal, he made the economic case for immigration reform, arguing that even low-skill immigrants “bring labor to our economy so jobs can get done.” He insisted that Wisconsin dairy farmers are having a hard time finding workers, and that if they can’t — or if they raise wages as an alternative to attract those workers — both scenarios will lead to the importation of those products.
Ryan’s reasoning sparked the ire of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Next Monday, they’ll begin running an ad campaign ridiculing Ryan’s contention that Wisconsin suffers from a labor shortage. “Tell that to the 12 percent unemployed in Racine, the 10 percent unemployment in Milwaukee, the 9 percent unemployment in Janesville,” the ad states. “Thousands are looking for work, yet Ryan supports a plan that could double immigration, grant amnesty to illegal aliens, and bring in millions more foreign workers to take jobs.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has his own take regarding the pathway to citizenship. He envisions granting illegals the provisional status that was passed by the Senate. After that, Goodlatte believes illegals with provisional status will take advantage of existing U.S. law, allowing foreigners to pursue green cards or permanent legal residency. After that, Goodlatte claims, they will pursue citizenship by already available methods, including marriage to a U.S. citizen, or having an American employer sponsor them. “All of those are ways they could then eventually find themselves permanent residents and, ultimately, citizens, but none of those would be special ways that have been made available only to people who have come here illegally,” he told C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program last month.
Two other House Republicans, Daniel Webster (R-FL) and Aaron Schock (R-IL), also support a path to full citizenship, succumbing to what ABC News described as “an intense campaign by pro-immigration advocates targeting key House members at town-hall events.” It is part of a “larger five-week plan for hundreds of rallies, petition drives and other events across the country timed for the Congressional recess.”
That campaign will be part of an effort led by the progressive group Americans United for Change, which will coordinate with liberal activists to confront Republicans at every opportunity, demanding that they embrace comprehensive reform. “This is a new approach. The theory in the past has been to be stealth about the effort to confront members at town halls–but sometimes it’s been too stealth, and we haven’t generated enough activity,” said Brad Woodhouse, president of the organization.
Other pro-immigration groups will be doing their part as well. Organizing for Action (OFA) the progressive spinoff from Obama’s reelection campaign apparatus, will hold a national day of action next Monday, aimed at getting Americans to support comprehensive reform. Mi Familia Vota, coordinating with Alliance for Citizenship, will initiate community campaigns aiming to achieve the same goal. Clarissa Martinez of the National Council of La Raza, an organization that has long demanded an end to the deportation of all illegal aliens, promised that a collation of groups will host 360 different events in 52 congressional districts, while Congress remains in recess. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will also bring pressure to bear. “This is the beginning of a long, hot summer for the House of Representatives,” said SEIU member Eliseo Medina.
The above organizations will be countered by organizations such as the aforementioned FAIR, as well as NumbersUSA, which advocates lower levels of legal and illegal immigration, and Tea Party affiliates.
As a result of the latter groups’ efforts, Republicans have been careful to frame their support for reform as one that enhances border security, and promotes the ability of state and local law enforcement officials to enforce immigration laws. Yet as Gang of Eight Senator Chuck Schumer has indicated, it may be nothing more than talk. “We would much prefer a big comprehensive bill, but any way that the House can get there is OK by us,” he told CNN. “I actually am optimistic that we will get this done.” Getting there, according to Schumer includes “certain bottom lines for us: We do need some kind of path to citizenship.”
Why is Schumer optimistic? Hayworth explains that Republicans are embracing a classic “bait and switch” technique that is likely to succeed this time because, as opposed to the 2006-2007 effort, “the GOP leadership has become smarter, and more devious with their messaging.” He contends that a tough law enforcement bill sponsored by Rep. Mike McCaul, Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, will receive a vote of approval, but will be subsequently abandoned during the House-Senate reconciliation process. McCaul has reportedly been apprised of this reality — behind closed doors — by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
Instead, a bill sponsored by Cantor and Goodlatte, tentatively named the KIDS Act, legalizing illegal aliens who came to the country as children, will also be approved, and then become the actual bill that is sent to conference. Once it gets to conference, House Republicans will no longer be able to stop it: only a simple majority of conferees from each chamber will be needed to get the reconciled “Conference Report” floor votes in both the House and the Senate. This will allow House GOP members to claim they are tough on enforcement, even as Boehner will appoint conferees who can be counted on to embrace the Senate’s position on amnesty.
As Hayworth explains, when the resulting Conference Report is brought to the House floor, only a handful of Republican votes, coupled with overwhelming Democrat support, will be required to make amnesty a reality.
Hayworth is correct when he says that only a handful of Republicans would have to vote for reform. As it stands currently, the House is comprised of 234 Republicans and 200 Democrats, with one vacancy. Assuming Democrats vote as a monolith, as is often the case when ideological principles are involved, (and would undoubtedly be the case here, since amnesty could conceivably make them a permanent majority for the foreseeable future), only 18 Republicans would have to be swayed to support the bill. As it stands now, 21 House Republicans support immigration reform.
Such a reality underscores the true nature of Republican deviousness. Comprehensive immigration reform went down in flames in 2006-2007, because the millions of Americans who opposed it had a quantifiable bill to oppose. By breaking immigration reform into separate pieces, Republicans are hoping opposition to the bill will be similarly splintered–and muted. Even worse, House members will spend their August recess canvassing their constituents’ sentiment before a bill is even written. Thus, their thinking may be influenced by nothing more than who shows up at a town hall meeting and shouts the loudest.
Given the aforementioned promises of the above activist groups, a quiet recess is unlikely. Yet one gets the uncomfortable feeling that the best Americans opposed to the massive legalization of millions of lawbreakers can hope for is that the pro-immigration activists, as has often been the case, overplay their hands. Loud and noisy demonstrations by progressive activists demanding a pathway to citizenship might sway Republicans to abandon this effort or prompt a backlash.
Unfortunately, House Speaker Boehner offers little comfort in that regard. “Nobody has spent more time trying to fix a broken immigration system than I have,” he said last month. “I talked about it the day after the election. I’ve talked about it a hundred times since. And while some may disagree about how we’re going about fixing a broken immigration system, it’s been a big goal of mine.”
Like other Republicans, Boehner needs to be reminded that the system is “broken,” primarily because the refusal to enforce the crackdown on businesses who hire illegal aliens, and the steadfast refusal to secure the border (mandated by the 1986 immigration reform bill) has brought us to where we are now. Moreover, there is absolutely nothing stopping those provisions from being enforced right now – other than the ongoing refusal by the Obama administration, supported by compliant Republicans, to enforce that law. Is there any end in sight to this racket?
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