In this column, reprinted with permission from Newsmax, Christopher Ruddy, the conservative publication’s CEO and editor-in-chief, strongly suggests that congressional Republicans ought to cooperate with President Obama on border and immigration issues – and that their continuing recalcitrance may damage their party’s electoral prospects not only in November but long into the future.
With an estimated 51,000 undocumented children having entered our border states, and another 40,000 expected by September, congressional Republicans should join with President Obama in embracing a strong border security bill.
President Obama has put forth a $3.7 billion bill that the House Appropriations Committee will take up as early as Tuesday.
The Obama bill clearly needs some amending, but it offers a positive framework for improved border security and should not be dismissed.
The new Obama law changes the existing William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, a 2008 statute that says minors who are not from Mexico or Canada are entitled to legal proceedings before they are deported.
Surprisingly, Obama has agreed this is not a good idea and wants to scrap it. He wants speedy deportations.
He is also asking for $400 million to secure the border and pay for additional border agents, as many have been moved to detention centers and other cities to deal with the humanitarian crisis.
Senate Democrats are not so happy with Obama’s bill, which will increase deportations and end the crisis. Congressional Republicans don’t like its $3.7 billion pricetag.
What should they do? Compromise.
The House should demand more money for border security, and stepped-up penalties for adults who illegally enter the U.S.
They won’t get a full border security bill, but they could tack on House Homeland Security Chair Mike McCaul’s Border Security Results Act, designated as H.R. 1417, that for the first time puts clear and comprehensive metrics on border security, helping to assess shortcomings.
The McCaul bill currently requires no additional revenue and allows for a two-year assessment period of the border. In 2013, the bill passed the House committee unanimously and had Democratic co-sponsors, including Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX).
For Republicans who understandably don’t trust the Obama administration, the McCaul plan makes Obama administration efforts at the border transparent, putting a clear onus on the administration to clean up the mess or risk voter anger.
The Republicans like complaining about the border crisis, but unlike Obama have yet to put forward a comprehensive plan in dealing with it.
My GOP friends, who were dumbstruck that Obama actually won the last election, still can’t seem to figure it out.
Sure, Obama’s approval rating is in the low 40s. But it’s much better than Congress’ 7 percent approval!
They may be dumbfounded again when this November they fail to gain control of the Senate.
Though many Republicans have agreed upon this outcome before the votes have been cast, I have this sinking feeling of déjà vu — the summer of 2012, when I heard from moderate voters who said though they weren’t enamored of Obama, they really distrusted Mitt Romney.
The sentiment today is similar. Obama is not beloved but the Republicans seem faceless, message-less, and yes, obstructionist.
For sure, the party of “no” message works well in GOP primaries and inside the conservative media bubble, but it doesn’t win general elections.
The GOP is once again jeopardizing its already slim chance of winning the White House in 2016 — and even that of re-taking the Senate — by not moving on a borders and immigration bill.
Republicans could have passed one this summer, but chose not to.
In early July, House Speaker John Boehner announced he would not bring to the floor, nor would the GOP pass, any border security and immigration bill this year.
Obama immediately suggested he could use his executive prerogatives to fix the immigration mess.
Whatever Obama’s executive action does, which will likely be small and narrow, he and the Democrats will again look like the heroes.
The Republicans will again reaffirm their image as anti-immigrant, which I believe is not an accurate reflection of the party.
Americans do want our borders secure. States along the border with Mexico are being swamped by undocumented immigrants, many of them children, as their police and social service systems are overwhelmed.
Sheriffs in border states say Mexican drug cartels are also taking advantage of the porous border to smuggle contraband and people — and possibly terrorists — into the United States.
The border crisis is a national concern affecting not just the economy but security as well.
President Obama’s big wish may be to give amnesty for undocumented aliens in the country, now estimated at more than 11 million.
The GOP had an unusual opportunity this summer to pass a bill that not only could have secured the border once and for all, but dealt with the undocumented in a long-term and comprehensive way.
A Republican working group in the House had been working for over a year hammering out legislation that would have done this. The bill was ready to go.
My sources tell me that this plan would have required the Obama administration to effectively seal the border over the next two years. An independent commission would then have evaluated the controls to see if the administration had accomplished this task, and other parts of the bill would not go into effect unless the border was indeed certified secure.
Another 10 years would have to pass for undocumented workers to pay fines and taxes before they could even apply for citizenship.
Another proviso would have made future illegal entry into the United States a felony. This would have seriously deterred future illegal immigration.
It is a harsh plan, harsher than I would like.
But Obama would have faced a dilemma over signing it. Meanwhile, the Republicans would have done the right thing to propose a tough border and immigration bill.
Not only would the House bill have secured the border, but it would have put the GOP in a positive light with Hispanic voters, which Republicans need to have in response to America’s changing demographics.
The Hispanic population in the United States has increased six-fold since 1970 and now totals 53 million. But in 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney garnered just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to exit polls. And he lost.
George W. Bush barely won re-election in 2004 by winning 44 percent of Hispanics.
A new openness will help Republicans not just with Latinos but with all immigrant groups who see the Republican Party as anti-immigrant.
For example, the GOP used to win a large percentage of the Asian-American vote, but in the last election Obama tallied a whopping 73 percent of that vote to Romney’s 26 percent.
As for concerns that an immigration reform act would negatively impact Republicans in national elections, the legalized newcomers would likely not earn the right to apply for citizenship until 2026, putting the impact of any legislation until the 2028 or later presidential elections.
Studies also suggest that many may never actually apply for citizenship. A recent Pew study found that of 5.4 million legal residents from Mexico in the U.S. who hold green cards and are eligible to apply for citizenship, only 36 percent have chosen to do so.
Republicans in the House have been reluctant about moving forward, especially in light of the illegal influx of children.
Now, the Obama border bill offers a pathway for compromise. Republicans aren’t being asked to give undocumented workers status of any type.
Obama is asking for funding to step up deportations and make the border secure.
Having failed to propose a more comprehensive borders and immigration bill, the GOP is being given a second opportunity to step up, make the Obama bill true to its mission, and hit a home run. Obama will sign a reasonable bill. The country will win.
Republicans need to start thinking beyond their short-term political advantage and toward long-term solutions.
Failing to grasp the importance of this moment to act, the once Grand Old Party risks being relegated to the past.
AFP Photo/Jewel Samad
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