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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg View) — President Barack Obama appears ready to stake his claim on immigration with a sweeping executive action. This will produce outrage, fulminations and legislation on the opposite side of the immigration debate. One thing it won’t produce? A clear declaration of what exactly immigration opponents want.

Members of Congress speak constantly of their opposition to “amnesty.” They almost never mention the real-world consequence of denying amnesty to the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.: “deportation.”

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama is a perfect example. Sessions led the charge in 2013 against the immigration reform legislation that passed the Senate with 68 votes. He is a vocal opponent of “amnesty,” and dismissed Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as an “unlawful assumption of power to violate plain law of the United States.”

Writing in Politico on Monday, Sessions boldly asserted the righteousness of his cause:

On Election Day, Americans roared in protest against the president’s open-borders extremism. They rallied behind candidates who will defend the rule of law and put the needs of American workers and families first.

“Open-borders extremism” is an interesting characterization of the first president in memory who has overseen a net increase of approximately zero in illegal immigration. But enough about Obama. If Sessions opposes Obama’s policies, what policies does the senator support?

There are, after all, a finite number of answers to the question of what to do about millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.:

1. You can offer them a path to legalization and/or citizenship.

2. You can deport them.

3. You can maintain the status quo, in which the undocumented remain in the U.S. without legal rights or recognition (and perhaps “self deport” in accord with the wishes of Mitt Romney).

I asked Sessions’s communications director, Stephen Miller, which of these options Sessions supports. Here is his answer, via email:

Senator Sessions’ priority is to fight for jobs and wages for American workers. President Obama’s immigration plan — work permits for illegal immigrants and permanently doubling the admission of new foreign workers — helps open borders billionaires while slashing incomes and jobs for struggling families.

When I pointed out the obvious — that his response was a non-answer that wasn’t even pretending very hard — Miller sent me a courteous reply:

We just have an honest difference of opinion. We believe an American citizen has more of a claim to a job than say, for instance, someone who illegally remained in the U.S. after their visa was revoked by federal authorities. We believe Americans should get higher wages, not be replaced with lower-wage guest workers as Silicon Valley proposes.

I’d love to continue this back-and-forth but I’m going to be out of pocket for the next few hours.

So Sessions, who along with Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas represents the hard end of anti-immigrant views in the Senate, shrinks from saying he supports deportation. He loudly condemns the status quo. And he’s virulently opposed to amnesty.

The anti-immigrant forces have been on a two-year hot streak, sinking immigration reform in Congress and successfully exploiting opportunities, such as the spring and summer wave of Central American children at the border, to increase public fears and resistance to legalization. They enjoyed great success in the midterm elections.

They have all the marks of a potent, durable political force. They’re just too embarrassed to say out loud what exactly they’re a force for.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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  • Lynda Groom

    It seems that good old Jeff does not respect the intelligence of the voters. Then again maybe he’s on too something. By avoiding the word ‘deportation’ perhaps he and the voters will belief in some other fantasy than explains the GOP alternative. I know you are wondering what GOP alternative. So am I.

    • Allan Richardson

      Considering the attitudes of both the “professional” (elected officials and pundits) and “amateur” (voter base) right wing nuts, the fourth alternative might be a “Second Amendment Final Solution” approach: open season on brown people; the KKKops won’t arrest you because you are “defending America.” They would not even care whether the shooting victims are “really” illegals: green cards, naturalized, and descendants of Mexicans absorbed in Texas, California and other Southwestern states when the US took them over, to the ignorant and bigoted they’re all “wetbacks.”

      If you think this is unrealistic, remember the Texas-born boy who almost won America’s Got Talent with his traditional mariachi singing, then sang the national anthem to start a basketball game? Remember how internet wackos sent all those Facebook posts and Twitter tweets saying they should have let “an American instead of an illegal alien” sing the anthem? There’s your GOP voter base.

  • Dominick Vila

    Republicans are not afraid of mass deportations, they are simply complying with the desires of their donors, who are benefiting from the status quo, and see even the most modest attempts to remedy an intolerable situation as a threat to the bottom line.

  • plc97477

    It is, of course, not very humane to acknowledge that you want to keep people illegal because it gives you a very large club to use to keep them under control and makes them less likely to rock the boat.

  • James Bowen

    This article is disingenuous. What restrictionists and enforcement advocates want is strict workplace enforcement. This would deny them jobs and thereby deny them a reason for being here. They would in all likelihood leave on their own.

    • This would deny them jobs …

      … and leave the low-paying jobs illegal immigrants take available for Americans?

      • James Bowen

        Yes it would. It would also put upward pressure on the wages in those jobs as labor would be more scarce.

  • Cy Nout

    In August of 2007, an illegal alien was arrested in Huron, Ohio for molesting an 8 years old girl.

  • Justin Napolitano

    The Republicans are for one thing and one thing only: staying in office by doing nothing. They do it by bringing up the many problems this country has,. most of which were caused by Republican administrations, and then doing absolutely nothing about them.
    They are masters of doing nothing but opposing anything that the Obama administration tries to do to help the Average middle class American.
    The Republicans pander to the dumbest, least educated people and the rich.
    They tell the least educated that they have a better plan for them but never do anything but screw them out of their money and the hard earned benefits from the US government that they earned. They then give everything they can to the richest and forever proclaim that the more given to the rich the more the middle class will benefit but can not show one bit of evidence to support that claim.
    The Republicans lie, steal and do everything they can to do nothing.
    The XL pipeline is another example of what they want to do and that is import oil from Canada expressly to export it to other countries which does nothing for Americans. Furthermore it is part of a plan to eventually export American oil by repealing a federal law forbidding it.
    The end result will be more money for rich oil companies and increased costs for gasoline and other oil dependent products for Americans.
    I wouldn’t trust a Republican to do anything but screw me and all middle class Americans.

  • Peter LaMarck

    More insight into the deadly diseases imported by illegal aliens: