A jab at the Tea Party?
Unbelievable as it may be to their core constituency, House Republicans are now embracing comprehensive immigration reform. Late yesterday, the Hill obtained a one-page document outlining the GOP's "statement of principals," that endorses a path to legal status, once “specific enforcement triggers” have been achieved.
In an apparent sop to their base, House leadership stopped short of offering a path to citizenship, citing unfairness to those who have emigrated here legally, and the "harm" it would do to the rule of law. “Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits),” the paper states.
Earlier in the day, GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers confirmed the GOP's determination to move forward on the issue. “We heard the president say this should be a year of action and that is our goal," she told reporters. "We join the president in this effort to make this a year of action.”
A year of political suicide may be more accurate. One that includes a stunning level of collective shortsightedness. Republicans intend to grant some sort of probationary legal status predicated on the federal government meeting certain, unspecified "enforcement triggers." Undoubtedly, one of them is "border security," the key item that is supposed to make the rest of the amnesty agenda palatable. That would be the same border security that has been routinely ignored ever since it was promised to be an integral part of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. Equally ignored was the Secure Fence Act of 2006, that called for "at least two layers of reinforced fencing."
A 2007 amendment to the bill gutted that provision, giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) "discretion" to determine what type of fencing would be used. Thus, vehicle barriers or single layer pedestrian fencing was deployed, despite its ineffectiveness. Adding insult to injury, last June, the Senate rejected by a vote of 54-39 an amendment offered by Sen. John Thune (R-SD). It called for nothing more than the funding and completion of the 700 miles of double-tiered fencing along our southern border. Five Republicans voted against the measure, including the insufferable Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who ran a 2010 campaign ad with the phrase, “let’s build the dang fence!” in it.
In other words, what Republicans are willfully ignoring is the reality of a Democrat party and an Obama administration with a demonstrable record of selective law enforcement, whenever that selectivity suits their agenda. The notion that this time it will be different, is utterly laughable.
And that's only the issue of border security. Even though Republicans stop short of granting citizenship to illegals, and opt instead for some sort of "legal status," how long do they think it will be before Democrats and their media allies begin an all-out campaign against the unconscionable "two-tier" immigration system created by a "nativist" GOP? The one that denies hard-working, tax-paying people the genuine justice that only a pathway to citizenship can provide?
On Wednesday, Paul Ryan admitted he envisions that "probationary" status, allowing illegals to work while government tightened border security and internal enforcement metrics, will be buttressed by a law the Obama administration "can't avoid."
In reality, border metrics and/or other "specific enforcement triggers" may already be largely irrelevant. This week, the labor union that represents the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers and adjudicators, which is tasked with the application approval process, explained why. In a letter to Congress, they essentially made a mockery of the "rigorous background checks" promoted by the GOP, warning that they would be unable to handle the workload associated with investigating millions of applicants. “USCIS is not equipped to handle this workload, and due to political interference in its mission, is not empowered to deny admission to all those who should be denied due to ineligibility," said National Citizenship And Immigration Services Council president Kenneth Palinkas. "We have become a visa clearinghouse for the world, rather than the first line of defense for a secure immigration system.”
Obama administration officials countered that assessment, saying they would be ready if Congress provides them the opportunity. Yet the Washington Times notes that key questions remain unanswered. It remains unknown what documents would be necessary to meet the criteria for "legal status," and whether USCIS adjudicators would interview every applicant, "which would take longer but would be more likely to weed out criminals or fraudulent applications.”
Those questions may remain officially unanswered, but who's kidding whom? This is the same Obama administration that unilaterally suspended critical aspects of the healthcare law when the website they had three years to build -- to process applications -- turned into an unmitigated disaster. On top of that, they forced both insurance companies and American citizens to rely on an "honor system" to verify subsidies and coverage based on income.
Do Republicans seriously believe the same administration would be above "streamlining" the process for verifying the eligibility of a constituency they rightly envision becoming future Democrats? How many thousands of illegal aliens might be granted probationary status based on a similar honor system, such as a promise to verify their eligibility at a later date?
That political reality is apparently a secondary consideration for Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Reince Priebus.“I think politically speaking it's a mixed bag, but the question is whether or not it’s something we have to do as a country, and I think that’s what’s trumping the political answer,” he insists. “You see in our party, whether it’s Rand Paul, who’s called for massive immigration reform, or Marco Rubio, I think you have general consensus that something big has to happen.”
Columnist Ann Coulter, who was privy to a report produced by conservative stalwart Phyllis Schlafly, reveals just how "big" immigration per se has been for the GOP. "Schlafly's report overwhelmingly demonstrates that merely continuing our current immigration policies spells doom for the Republican Party," Coulter writes, later adding that "there's never been a period when a majority of immigrants weren't Democrats."
The statistics are daunting. For example, while 81 percent of native-born Americans believe schools should teach students to be proud of America, only half of naturalized U.S. citizens do. Sixty-seven percent of native-born Americans believe the Constitution supersedes international law, compared to only 37 percent of naturalized citizens. Immigrants also express substantial support for ObamaCare, bigger government, gun control, and affirmative action. Every one of those positions is (or ought to be) antithetical to the interests of the GOP. Coulter then gets to the central argument that apparently eludes them. "Republicans have no obligation to assist the Democrats as they change the country in a way that favors them electorally, particularly when it does great harm to the people already here."
The harm that would befall American workers is inarguable. The CBO reveals that wages for Americans would be adversely affected for more than a decade, and that the unemployment rate would-be "slightly" higher until 2020. Black and Hispanic Americans, many of whom would be competing directly with the newly legalized immigrants for jobs, already endure unemployment rates higher than the national average. That the Democrats consider them temporarily expendable in their quest for electoral hegemony is understandable. That the GOP would blow a golden opportunity to make serious inroads with them while Democrats are pursuing that hegemony, is truly remarkable.
Unfortunately the Republicans' ability to deceive themselves appears limitless. Again, is there any doubt that Democrats would insist on some sort of "readjustment" regarding fines and/or back taxes for a population that has long endured the economic deprivation engendered by "living in the shadows?"
How long before the same party that advocates for forgiveness of student loans, advocates forgiveness -- along with welfare -- for people who are struggling against the same “income inequality” that afflicts so many Americans?
Yet perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of the GOP's capitulation on the issue is political. In an interview with Breitbart, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) echoed what many Americans are undoubtedly thinking. "Republicans are poised for an historic election this fall -- a conservative tidal wave much like 2010," he said. "The biggest thing we could do to mess that up would be if the House passed an amnesty bill -- or any bill perceived as an amnesty bill--that demoralized voters going into November. Rather than responding to the big-money lobbying on K Street, we need to make sure working-class Americans show up by the millions to reject Obamacare and vote out the Democrats. Amnesty will ensure they stay home."
A Republican Party that seems determined to alienate their core constituency should expect nothing less. Yet that determination raises an uncomfortable question. Why? Cruz may have inadvertently provided an answer. The "conservative tidal wave" that represents Tea Party sentiment, if not the Tea Party itself, irritates the establishment GOP. It may be possible that such irritation is severe enough for establishment Republicans to operate in tandem with Democrats on this issue, to mitigate the power of that tidal wave within their ranks.
There are more than a few conservatives who believe the establishment GOP is content to be a minority party, as long as it is a minority enjoying the privileges that accrue to Washington insiders. That may not be the only explanation for their determination to embrace a position on immigration utterly inimical to their base. But it is certainly a plausible one given the irrational path House leadership is embarking on.
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