The centrist excuse for doing nothing comes from The New York Times‘ Ross Douthat, who points out that immigration remains a low priority for voters, even Latino voters. Providing any form of legalization that allows some of those 11 million to work is essentially “amnesty,” which would be bad for wages and the job market. Even worse — it would divide the GOP and “hand President Obama a policy victory at a time when he looks like a lame duck, and demoralize the right along the way.”
The more bald-faced and craven argument comes from Ann Coulter. Her argument boils down to: Why should people who won’t vote for us be given rights?
And it’s echoed by right-wing firebrands like TownHall’s Kurt Schlichter, who calls reform a “suicide pact.”
Coulter cites statistics that show Latino and Asian voters tend to favor “big government” policies and will help create a permanent Democratic majority. The subtext of this argument is: Because Republicans know we cannot win over voters with our policies, millions of people should live third-class lives.
Both of these arguments are concerned only with the well-being of the Republican Party — which is ironic given that the one piece of advice the party gave itself after Mitt Romney’s loss was to get immigration reform out of the way.
If the GOP is looking for the right time to implement immigration reform, it was 2007 — or last summer. But in both instances the party was being held captive by the same base that pushed for the government shutdown and has no interest in the kinds of policies that actually win national elections.
Here are five reasons the GOP should admit the border is more secure than it has been in decades and act now on immigration reform. Or it can pin its hopes on voter suppression and other tactics that will hasten its long-term demise.
Photo: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr
You Can’t Get Half-Pregnant With Immigration Reform
In 2004, George W. Bush led his party to its best performance with Latino voters in decades with 44 percent. Just four years later, John McCain’s share of the Latino vote was smaller than Bush’s, at 31 percent. The senator had been an active supporter of immigration reform, but when it collapsed, he became “Mr. Build That Dang Fence.” Mitt Romney took it a step further by becoming “Mr. Self-Deportation” and only won 27 percent of the Latino vote. McCain and Romney both lost.
Republicans think dabbling in immigration reform and caving to the base at the last minute can avoid the political perils of passing it — even though history has shown the opposite to be true.
Image: Chris Cillizza
Stop Thinking About 2014
An aggregate of national polls shows Democrats lead Republicans in a generic congressional ballot by 4.5 percent, significantly less than the minimum 6.8 percent margin experts estimate would be required for the GOP to lose its majority. Republicans are currently projected to win about five seats and have about a 1 percent chance of losing the House.
Unless the party starts forming a conga line behind Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), it will keep its majority. With this one act of outreach — after the primary deadline, of course — Republicans in Congress could dramatically increase their chances of working with a Republican president at some point in their career.
The Debate Can Only Get Uglier And Doom 2016
Speaking of Ted Cruz… there’s no one who would more love to see reform fail and become an issue in the 2016 GOP primary.
Mitt Romney only adopted “self-deportation” to move to the right of Governor Rick Perry (R-TX). Given the base’s fixation on building walls and posturing against immigrants, allowing this sentiment to dominate the primaries would make the GOP toxic to the groups it needs to win over.
“If Republicans wait until 2015 to tackle this issue, that puts a very emotional and controversial issue right in the middle of the Republican presidential selection process,” veteran GOP pollster Whit Ayres told The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent. “The opportunity for demagoguery will be exceedingly prevalent if we wait that long.”
And if the GOP waits, it will face a whole new dilemma.
Photo: jbouie via Flickr
Forcing President Obama’s Hand On Deportations Will Backfire
The reason Republicans have been freaking out about executive orders has nothing to do with executive orders. They love executive orders. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) vowed to repeal as much of Obamacare as they could with executive orders. What they’re afraid of is what the president will do with an executive order if they refuse to pass immigration reform.
For years, activists have pressed Obama to halt deportations for immigrants that would likely be legalized under a new immigration reform law. In 2012, the president partially heeded their demands and granted temporary protection to young unauthorized immigrants, known as DREAMers. But he has told activists since then, including a DREAMer who heckled him in November at a rally, that he lacks the authority to go any further.
On Friday, he took a question during a Google+ hangout from a woman who wanted to know whether, given Obama’s State of the Union remarks, he would be willing to use “executive authority to halt deportations which have been ripping families apart until Congress passes a comprehensive immigration reform.” While Obama said he was “modestly optimistic” Congress would reach an agreement, he didn’t exactly rule out revisiting the deportations issue, either.
If the president does decide to take executive action to delay deportations, this will enrage the right — even though Obama has deported far more undocumented workers than George W. Bush. That uproar from the right demanding that law-abiding people be deported could help the GOP bring the 27 percent of the Latino vote it got in 2012 closer to the 8-12 percent of the African-American vote it consistently earns.
AFP Photo/Jewel Samad
This Is The Best Chance To Get A Deal That The GOP Favors
House Republicans know that the immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last summer could pass the House, if it got a vote. That’s why it won’t.
Instead, their plan — with its “no special path to citizenship” — is the best hope of getting reform that focuses on measures to secure the border while using systems like E-Verify to significantly reduce employers’ reliance on undocumented workers. The House Leadership hasn’t decided if it’s willing to embrace some form of legalization while these triggers are being assessed. If they don’t — and leave 11 million people in limbo — reform is dead.
Paul Ryan is preparing for such an outcome by proffering a flimsy excuse based on not trusting Obama with laws — even though that doesn’t stop them from passing laws that regulate women’s health and deregulate polluters.
And the next time it’s considered, Republicans may not have control of either house of Congress.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr