Time to admit it: Trying to get immigration reform from Republicans is a waste of time

11 Jun 2014 03:40 pm
Posted by: Donna

When Eric Cantor lost his primary Tuesday night, and his position as House Majority Leader, a lot of liberals were exultant because why the hell shouldn’t we be? It was comical watching the whole thing unfold, since the Cantor camp had been assured of a 30 point victory by their own advisers. And Eric Cantor is a dick anyway. A huge wingnut. A wingnut with access to lots of money, therefore an “establishment Republican”, but that didn’t moderate a single one of his stances. It’s been Cantor leading the GOP House majority in obstructionism, even to the point of endangering the country’s solvency.

Oh wait, he was “good on immigration” or something like that, so I’ve been told by party poopers who insist that “immigration reform is dead now”. Meh. It’s true that immigration reform is looking pretty moribund these days, but that already the case before Cantor’s primary loss. I’m not sure what people think Eric Cantor would have done on immigration in the next few weeks that he won’t now that he’ll be resigning as Majority Leader next month. His past performance on the issue has certainly been less than impressive, as Vox‘s Dara Lind explains:

It’s true that in early 2013, Cantor gave some speeches supporting legal status for young unauthorized immigrants, or DREAMers. (This was substantially to the right of other Republicans who were speaking out at the time — the “middle ground” for vocal House Republicans in early 2013 was legal status for most of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States.) But while Cantor was hyping a proposed “KIDS Act” for unauthorized young people last summer, no bill ever materialized. And last month, when fellow Republican Rep. Jeff Denham lobbied Cantor to allow a vote on Denham’s much more moderate bill, to allow legal status only for young immigrants who joined the military, it was Cantor who shot him down.

A few weeks ago, President Obama delayed his executive review of deportation policy as a way to give the House a chance to pass immigration reform. That could have presented a pro-reform member of House leadership with an opportunity. Instead, Cantor sent out mailers that week bragging about stopping the “Obama-Reid Amnesty.”

How many years have we Arizonans seen this same performance by guys like John McCain and Jeff Flake, where they’re “good on immigration” out of one side of their mouths and secure-the-borders out of the other? Is anyone else getting tired of being toyed with by Republicans while the years go by and no comprehensive immigration reform, and not even piecemeal stuff like the DREAM Act, gets passed? The only advancement made in recent years is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which was an executive order that Republicans hated. At some point supporters of immigration reform are going to have to face the fact that it is not coming from Republicans. It requires electing more Democrats, enough to keep the Senate and take back the House. Begging Republicans to lead on it only allows calculating ones like Eric Cantor and John McCain to be characterized as “reasonable” or “establishment” or “maverick” as needed (yes, those last two things contradict each other but somehow John McCain has made that work for him).

Giving lip service to comprehensive immigration reform is also great PR for conservative Business Leaders™. Speaking of which, do we really want the Republican version of reform that is unduly punitive to undocumented applicants and will undoubtedly contain enough loopholes to allow inhumane employers to treat “guest workers” the way they’re treated in Qatar, or should we aim for something better? That also requires electing Democrats and having them design the legislation. There’s no other way around it.

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