Opinion | House republicans cannot ignore the country’s need for immigration reform
Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 00:10
Contradictory reports thrive on the status of immigration reform as the House of Representatives considers whether to take up such a bill or series of bills.
Last week, Speaker John Boehner left a glimmer of hope that the House will address immigration reform in its last 18 session days of the year, saying in part, “immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed and I am hopeful.”
Representative Jeff Denham of California, the first Republican to sign onto a comprehensive package cosponsored by 185 Democrats last week, told the Washington Post that leadership, “told me that we’re going to have this [issue] on the floor by the end of the year.”
However, POLITICO reported last week that, “A growing chorus of GOP lawmakers and aides are intensely skeptical that any of the party’s preferred piecemeal immigration bills can garner the support of 217 Republicans — they would need that if Democrats didn’t lend their votes. Republican leadership doesn’t see anyone coalescing around a single plan, according to sources across GOP leadership. Leadership also says skepticism of President Barack Obama within the House Republican Conference is at a high, and that’s fueled a desire to stay out of a negotiating process with the Senate. Republicans fear getting jammed.”
The Speaker can hope all he wants that his majority in the House will get its act together in a month’s time and put together a viable series of immigration bills to get the legislative process on immigration moving again. Or he can act. He’s lucky enough to control the floor. Given that House Republicans cannot get 218 votes together to support much of anything these days, the right move is to ignore the old majority of the majority “Hastert Rule” and accept the help of a Democratic caucus that is actually able to stick together on big votes.
Our nation’s deeply flawed immigration policy is far too pressing a problem to leave in the hands of a group of 187 Republicans who were willing to let our country default on our debt. The House Republican Conference can’t get its act together. We have 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in this country and a set of immigration policies that do not work.
It’s rare that I agree with the President, but as he said last week, “let’s not wait. It doesn’t get easier to just put it off. Let’s do it now. Let’s not delay. Let’s get this done and let’s do it in a bipartisan fashion.” Immigration reform has been a cause of levelheaded members of both parties for some time.
Back in June, the Senate passed the bipartisan Gang of 8’s comprehensive immigration package 68-32. The bill then was sent over to the body controlled by the party who saw their standard bearer in the 2012 election pass off self-deportation as an immigration policy.
To their credit, Republicans have made attempts to shed this label, by giving lip service to the idea of moving smaller immigration bills through the House, without giving Democrats what they really want first: a pathway to citizenship. But the disorganization of the body has discredited them.
The American people overwhelmingly support a pathway to citizenship. An AP-GFK poll in April showed 63 percent of those polled backing a pathway to citizenship. A Pew Poll in September said 71 percent of Americans think undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. who meet certain requirements should be allowed to stay in the country. 77 percent also call for an increase in border security in immigration reform.
Fortunately, the Senate bill does both.
Political circumstances have gotten in the way as of late. The President deciding to send a use of force authorization to the Hill on Syria and our latest fiscal negotiations paired with the government shutdown have made substantive legislating pretty much impossible.
But we have a lull until the end of this year. Eighteen days to act.
If House Republicans want to continue to take their marching orders from Heritage Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund, fine. Let them. But as long as they continue to do so, the Speaker will largely ignore their wishes—especially on immigration reform.
Though it would likely cause him to lose his job somewhere down the line, at least he would have done something good for the country instead of continuing to allow ideology and personal hatred trump smart politics and policy.