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Immigration: Time To Choose Sides

Memo Pad Politics

Immigration: Time To Choose Sides


WASHINGTON — The future of immigration reform is, for now at least, not up to House Speaker John Boehner. It is in the hands of a group of moderately conservative Republican senators who have to decide whether their desire to solve a decades-old problem outweighs their fears of retaliation from the party’s right wing.

These senators are clearly looking for a way to vote for a bill that is the product of excruciating but largely amicable negotiations across partisan and ideological barriers. But these Republicans — they include Bob Corker, John Hoeven, Susan Collins, Dean Heller and Rob Portman — want enough changes in the measure’s border security provisions so they can tell Tea Party constituents that they didn’t just go along with a middle-of-the-road consensus.

Here’s their problem: Changes that so complicate a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants as to render it meaningless are (and should be) unacceptable to supporters of reform, including most Democrats. But if the GOP senators accept something short of this, they will face furious attacks from the hardcore opponents of any move toward large-scale naturalization of those who came here illegally.

In the end, there is no way around their dilemma. If they want a bill, they will have to take political risks.

Boehner got a lot of attention the other day for what appeared to be a firm statement that he would not let an immigration bill through the House without majority support from Republicans. On its face, his statement would seem to doom reform, given where that majority now seems to stand.

But as he typically (and, in his partial defense, perhaps necessarily) does, Boehner left himself wiggle room. “I have no intention of putting a bill on the floor that will violate the principles of our majority and divide our conference,” he said.

Ah, yes, and let’s remember that this week’s “intention” does not necessarily determine tomorrow’s strategy. It’s in Boehner’s interest to keep the large right end of his caucus at bay and to stake out a hard line to extract as many concessions from the Senate as he can. In the House at the moment, tomorrow is always another day.

What may matter is not how many Republican votes he gets but whether a majority of his caucus quietly decides that passing immigration reform is better for the party than blocking it. Many in such a majority might actually vote against a bill they privately want to see enacted. By doing so, they could satisfy their base voters back home while getting the immigration issue off the political agenda and ending the GOP’s cold war with Latino voters.

This is not unduly cynical. Many essential laws have passed because legislators found a way to balance their political needs with their convictions. The movie Lincoln is instructive on the matter.

E. J. Dionne

Besides contributing to The National Memo, E.J. Dionne, Jr. is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, and a university professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown University.

His most recent book is Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (2013).

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  1. Lynda Groom June 20, 2013

    Fear of the right wing has always puzzled me. Why so-called moderates are so afraid of the extreme fringe has always seemed strange. The fringe is called the fringe because it is usually a small portion of the mix. Their noise level is much higher than their numbers should indicate. It is difficult to imagine the Democratic Party being as frightened of the extreme left as the GOP is of its nut branch. I can’t wrap my head around the problem facing the GOP. They seem to be painting themselves into a corner that they don’t wish to find themselves, but they keep inflicting the wounds upon the institution as if for spite. We are witnessing a schizophrenic death spiral as Senator Graham would describe the unfolding events.

    1. John Pigg June 20, 2013

      The reason that moderates within the Party are fearful is because conservative activists with SuperPAC support have made them this way.

      The movement of “uncompromising conservative activists” has shown that they can take legislators with years of seniority and beat them in primaries. Democratic Peace Activists and Gay Rights Activists, and Green Activists do not have the numbers to pull off a coup against an entrenched incumbent. And even if they did have the numbers, I doubt they could raise the money to accomplish their goals.

      1. TheSkalawag929 June 20, 2013

        I agree with you on both counts.
        It’s a shame that republicans in both houses have to put the good of the country on a shelf for fear of being primaried by the fringe nut branch of their party with money. On the other hand democrats in the Senate give away the store in order to be able to say that they got a bill through the Senate with bipartisan support. And the bad thing is what they get passed isn’t worth the effort.

        1. charleo1 June 20, 2013

          Well, I think that is exactly right. The GOP has so insulated
          themselves by redrawing, and gerrymandering districts, that
          for too many in the House, there are no incentives to pass
          any kind of immigration bill, short of demanding the total
          expulsion of all undocumented immigrants. Then, put in place
          this huge contingent of forces at the border. Which of course
          comes with it’s own huge price tag. And would be in direct conflict with the sizable lobby, representing those operations that see any changes from the status quo, hurting profits.
          My advise to the GOP, which I’m sure are awaiting with baited
          breath to hear. Is to get the truth about the current immigration
          situation, right out there on the table. And say well, these are
          the facts. And what do we think as a Party, we should do
          about it? Something, that so far they have been loathe to do.

          1. Fern Woodfork June 20, 2013

            I Totally Agree With You All My Friends!! If They Don’t Pass This Bill It Will Just Be More Nails The GOP/Tea Party Will Be Putting In Their Own Coffins!!

          2. charleo1 June 20, 2013

            Of course! These Republicans can’t agree on which day
            of the week it is. They darn sure can’t pass any immigration
            bill. Well, we know the lot of them are useless. I just wish the
            rest of the Country would wise up! Don’t you?

          3. Fern Woodfork June 20, 2013

            Oh Yes I Do My Friend!! 🙂 And I Hope Since The Red States Are Main States That Get Government Money This Sequester Bring Them To Their Senses!! LOL I Can Only Hope Huh

          4. TheSkalawag929 June 21, 2013

            It appears to me that the right-wing fringe has seized control of the volume button of the republican party and all anyone is hearing is their extremist’s wrong headed message.
            It is up to the more rational members of the party to take control of their party back. Unless or until that time the republican party is spiraling down out of control toward that sudden stop of oblivion.

    2. sigrid28 June 20, 2013

      Term limits would make a lot of politicians braver, don’t you think?

  2. Dominick Vila June 20, 2013

    There is no doubt that traditional conservative Republicans are afraid of the reaction that any sign of moderation on issues such as immigration law reform, abortion or gay marriage would elicit from Tea Party supporters. An example of that was evident when Sen. McCain ran for re-election a few years ago and had to switch from his “guest worker” proposal to erecting more Berlin-style walls. Had he not done that, he would have been defeated, and he knows it.

    Immigration reform faces two major hurdles, the pressure that special interests – especially the agri-business and hospitality industries – are putting on Congress to retain the status quo, and the cultural hatred that is evident among the far right. The goal for the former is to keep the tool that allows them to post high profits, for the latter it is a desire to deport ALL Hispanics-Latinos to Mexico and ALL African Americans back to Africa.

    Every single member of Congress is fully aware of the risks they are taking when they embrace controversial issues such as this one, not because they believe most Americans share such nefarious sentiments, but because that small minority is backed up by deep pockets and because they are disciplined and vote.

  3. Catskinner June 20, 2013

    Multinational financial
    institutions want the immigration bill to pass so that they can rape America,
    drive down wages, and steal the country’s resources. Graham, McCain and others are
    doing their bidding because they want the multinationals’ campaign funds for
    the 2016 election. None of this has anything to do with Hispanics.

    1. charleo1 June 20, 2013

      You’re hypothesis that multinational financial institutions need immigration
      to pass, so they can rape America, and drive down wages, is obviously not
      correct. Because, Multinational, or National financial institutions, have been
      doing a great job of screwing the Country, and driving down wages for the
      better part of the last 30 years. The factions that are fighting reform are the
      same groups that always oppose giving the immigrant any legal standing.
      Corporate agriculture, and the labor intensive, hospitality industries. It is
      a bit of irony, is it not? How the Right Wingers are always advocating free
      market principals, as a panacea for all ills economic. But, fail to recognize
      the free market principals the businessman is using by hiring the cheapest
      labor, and sloughing off other expenses like schooling, and healthcare, to
      the surrounding communities. So, he maximizes his profits. And isn’t that
      what free market Capitalism is all about, profits? Oh, but you say, this is
      profit at my expense! Well, welcome to the real world. And where have you
      been all this time? And by the way, how much do you think we should cut
      his corporate taxes? The GOP says, by at least half. Would you agree?
      Well, let’s round ’em all up, and ship ’em back! Not likely. Well, first we
      must build an impenetrable defense at our Southern border! How long do
      you think it might take? 10/20 years? For the T-Party to agree to agree
      it’s sufficient? Probably never. The fence will never be high enough, or the
      path to citizenship, long enough for the T-Party leaders of the Republican
      Party. Because they know what you need to figure out. The cheapest
      labor is undocumented. And the cheapest healthcare, is the kind they
      never have to pay for. And that’s just how they like it.

      1. Catskinner June 20, 2013

        If the immigration bill passes, the multinational financials will be able to further drive out competition and increase their profits.

        1. charleo1 June 20, 2013

          Remember, you’re talking to a Liberal. So, if you could
          help me out a bit, and tell me who are these multinational
          financials? And, why you believe a legal worker would
          be paid less than the illegal hire?

          1. Catskinner June 20, 2013

            It’s my understanding that the way the immigration bill is being presented now, illegal aliens would be granted legal status, but they could not access public programs until they gained citizenship, including Obamacare. That being the case, the employer would not have to provide a service they weren’t entitled to, so the green-carded illegal would be cheaper at the same rate of pay than an American citizen.

          2. charleo1 June 20, 2013

            Okay. So, you agree the new green card recipient is no longer
            illegal? But, since the employer would have no obligation to
            provide any health benefits. This worker, and his family would
            continue to access the healthcare system thru the local
            emergency room. And the community at large would still pay that tab. Just as we do now. But, if I’m an employer, now that my immigrant has legal standing, I must carry workman’s comp.
            Withhold FICA taxes, which, by law, I must contribute to. So,
            I’m thinking if I’m going to have to start with all that. I’d be better
            off fighting any immigration reform at all. And just continue
            my under the table, off the record way, I’ve been doing things
            all along.

          3. Catskinner June 20, 2013

            Yes, they would have to pay everything but healthcare. In businesses that I’m associated with, it would be unlikely that an employer would take the chance of having a man on the job who wasn’t covered by workman’s comp.

          4. ralphkr June 20, 2013

            And yet, charleo1, the US Chamber of Commerce (the voice of big business) is really pushing for the immigration bill to pass. I would also point out that they are now on a major program to “educate” the US citizens about the evils of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and how they shall completely bankrupt the US in very few years.

            Of course, the cure to that problem is to cut SS payouts by over 50% and cancel all those evil government health care programs. That mantra is so familiar to me. In the late 1940s the song was that SS would bankrupt the US within 2 years, in the mid 1960s the song was that if Medicare was passed 90% of all doctors would quit their practice and 75% of all hospitals would close and, yet, the current projection for SS to be in financial trouble (let alone, bankrupting the US) is farther away than the underwriters have ever projected in the past & the yellow pages listings for medical providers is now larger than ever before.

          5. charleo1 June 20, 2013

            I can tell you’ve been keeping up with the latest news.
            And the way the GOP has pretty much crippled itself over the
            last 4 years. And this immigration stuff is really showing up
            their bum leg. So we’ve got the establishment Republicans.
            They look at the numbers, and they see the Latinos burying
            them in 8/10 years, if they can’t come up with something.
            Well, the T-Party is pure ideology. They don’t care about
            demographics. A lot of them don’t have big Latino
            populations in their districts. And, their constituents see a
            cultural take over. And the only path they want to see for
            the Mexican immigrant, is the one the bus makes when
            it’s hauling them all back home. Which, just ain’t happenin’
            So, another reason I’m glad I’m not them.
            Yes, they keep complaining about the big evil govn’t.
            The fact is, people wouldn’t need to lean so hard on,
            the government, if big corporates did right by their employees in the first place. Now they are afraid they might have to pick up some of tab they’ve been running for the last, 40/50 years.
            But I say, pick your poison. You want to bust unions, and work people like dogs, and pay ’em in peanuts. Screw them
            out of their pensions? Well, you can do that. But, then
            don’t come sniveling around, about taxes, and blaming
            big government Socialism. When they don’t just crawl off
            and die somewhere, when you get through with them.
            So, what do you think? Does that sound too unreasonable?

          6. ralphkr June 20, 2013

            Actually, charleo1, the GOP has been digging their grave for far longer than 4 years although it has rapidly become deeper since the TEA Party became the deciding factor as to which candidate is allowed to run. At one time I would vote for whichever candidate that I felt would do the least harm to the US but with the current Republican outlook I shall not for ANY Republican no matter how bad I think his opponent is because the local TEA Party controlled governments are so busy destroying anything that is not completely favorable to the wealthy & big business at the expense of those of us making less than $300,000 per annum.

      2. Ima_Leftout June 20, 2013

        The immigration bill should only be 2pages, all illegals should be identified with a card, allowed to work and pay taxes and returned home after their work is complete, and stand in line till their turn to come across for citizenship no freebies. They can compete for their pay scale , union or independent contractors like all of us. Borders will be less of a priority , but still necessary, since all workers are identiable as we all are ….no more “living in the shadows “. 70-90% of US citizens are AGAINST OUT RIGHT AMNESTY, including legal immigrants saying this is Unfair. ENFORCE current laws and stop spending our taxes on horrifically more expensive alternatives.

        Did I i miss anything in this ONE page proposal. Anything more than one page is crap and we all know. Cut the Crapp it s obvious obfuscation, that very few people read. Do we have to read this after it is passed, as the “non Affordable -Obama Care Act.!!!!!!

        1. charleo1 June 20, 2013

          Well, I don’t think we’re going to address the complexities
          of our currently broken system, with a one page bill. Your owners manual for your car has more than one page. And, immigrants, even the one’s who are not in compliance with current law, vary widely in their circumstances. Remember, there are, i1/12 million people today, some with businesses, and homes. Paying taxes, and providing jobs for American citizens. There are also students from around the world, getting their degrees who would like to stay, and employers would love it if they did. Because they have the skills, and credentials they are looking for. So, just pack them up,
          and say, yes, we know you are bright, educated, and
          talented. And would make a positive addition to any
          country’s economy. But, the law’s the law. Hit the road?
          And who’s best interests are served by that? There are
          young adults, that because they were brought here as babies, that have no ties to Mexico, or the Central American Countries they were born in. Many unable to speak Spanish. So, what are to do what? Take these kids, and just dump
          them off? And if I might, I would remind you we are a big complicated, modern Country of 350 million people. Healthcare is an extremely complicated subject. Unless we say, from now on, we are going to have Medicare for all, purchased thru the government. And everyone qualifies. Done. One page.

  4. Firozali A.Mulla June 20, 2013

    Darwin may have been right We were apes and no one has said we are not has anyone proved this We keep on hearing on the darwin theory but no controversies I thank you Firozali A.Mulla DBA

  5. Firozali A.Mulla June 20, 2013

    THIS IS THE unemployment figure add the prisoners if you let them lose IF YOU LET THEM lose or you feed them ”

    The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, but not enough to signal a material shift from the recent pace of moderate job growth.

    Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 18,000 to a seasonally adjusted 354,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported.

    Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to rise to 340,000 last week.

    The four-week moving average for new claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 2,500 to 348,250. Now that is not a small figure may be this is USA but the mobility is they will come or go some place where there are jobs that is very hard to say the mobility of labour I thank you FirozaliA.Mulla DBA

  6. ram1020 June 20, 2013

    Choose sides? I thought this was a bi-partisan bill, and I see nothing wrong with the compromise of securing the border, and getting rid of any loopholes. The government estimated that the bill would only prevent 25% of the current illegal entry, so why not strengthen it?
    It is not very often that a bill comes along that one side or the other doesn’t add a toxic provision so that they can blame the other side for not passing it. We have a winner here! Let’s set aside the partisan crap and get this done right!

  7. FT66 June 20, 2013

    No one from left or right should beg republicans to pass the Immigration Reform. This proposal came from them after they lost 2012 election. They wanted to rectify their mistakes so that they can also win by including latinos. If they are not willing to do so, well and good, everyone should let them stick to their guns which will never help them. What latinos has to do now is to wake up, understand the whole situation and show up in drove, first in mid-term election 2014 and in 2016 General Election. That is the only solution left to solve your problem my friends latinos.

  8. howa4x June 20, 2013

    Republicans are caught between a rock and a base. A majority of Americans favor immigration reform but the minority that opposes it are entrenched in the GOP. The base are true believers and not willing to compromise, which puts republican senators in a bind. Do they reach out to a fast growing minority, or appeal to a shrinking base that controls the primary process? In Alaska the senator who lost in the primary to a tea party nominee ran a write in the general election and won. If every senator voted for what is best for the country and then followed the path of Alaska, they would drive the tea party out of the republican party. Interesting thought isn’t it?

  9. I Zheet M'Drawz June 21, 2013

    WASHINGTON—As the debate over immigration reform continues in Congress, members of the Republican Party on Tuesday voiced their unequivocal support for the nation’s “more than 11 million Latino criminals,” emphasizing that much of the foundation of American society rests on these hardworking Hispanic lawbreakers.
    “Today, as we consider these crucial changes to our country’s immigration laws, let us once again reiterate our party’s tremendous respect and advocation for the legions of dedicated and persevering Latino wrongdoers who are such an important part of this country,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), speaking on behalf of a group of GOP lawmakers who have pledged their support of the estimated 11 million “flagrant and obtrusive offenders of the law.” “And so I would like these utterly felonious men and women to know that the Republican Party respects you and your corrupt, blatantly illegal interests. We stand with you, wanton transgressors.”
    “After all, you and your lawbreaking ilk make up a vital part of our nation’s rich tapestry,” McConnell added.
    Emphasizing the important role played by the country’s 11 million undocumented miscreants in the nation’s neighborhoods, schools, and businesses, Republicans from both the Senate and the House came together in solidarity today with what lawmakers called “the proud, resilient Hispanic crooks seeking to make a better life for themselves and their criminal families by taking what is not theirs.”
    Specifically, GOP legislators highlighted the countless contributions made to society by the millions of job-stealing Latino factory workers, incessant federal fund wasters, violent gangbangers, and unassimilated, non-English-speaking foreign interlopers who they said make this country great.
    “I, for one, am proud of these lawless foreigners who drain vital resources from our nation, irrevocably alter our national identity, and punish law-abiding immigrants who play by the rules,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), noting that several of his own constituents are steadfast, patriotic delinquents who openly defy our nation’s rule of law and believe in America. “Despite anything you may have heard to the contrary, my fellow Republicans and I are fully behind these outlaws, and we believe in making a better life for these villains’ children and their children’s children, who will someday become enthusiastic criminals in their own right, if they aren’t already.”
    “These parasitic monsters should be given a shot at freedom and opportunity, because diversity and acceptance are what America is all about,” Boehner continued. “And they are what the Republican Party is all about, too.”


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