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Following is an open letter to Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Josh, I love you, man. I’m a big fan. But I have to take issue with your post from yesterday entitled, “Immigration Reformers, Wake the F’ Up!”
Your premise is clear enough: Republicans in the House don’t want to pass immigration reform, are bent on killing it off and want to avoid the blame for doing so. You suggest we are earnest reformers naïve to the dysfunction, demagoguery and divisions that define the House of Representatives. And you question whether we have the smarts to pronounce reform dead now and the cojones to call out the House Republicans for killing it.
Sorry, we’re not going there. We’re in it to win it. And we’re optimistic about our chances. Let me offer up a few reasons why.
First, and no offense, we are used to being discounted by doubters. Over the years we’ve been told that Latino and immigrant voters would never make a difference in electoral outcomes; that immigration is a third rail issue that works against Democrats; that its a wedge issue that works for Republicans; that the anti-immigrant movement and the Tea Party are much stronger than pro-reform forces; that immigration reform with a path to citizenship is too far out of the mainstream to gain public support; that President Obama would never take bold executive action to protect DREAMers; and so on. So much for conventional wisdom.
Now we’re told that immigration reform is dead. This, just weeks after the U.S. Senate passed a strong bill with a bipartisan vote of 68-32. This, when it’s evident that today – right now – a bipartisan majority exists in the House of Representatives that would approve immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. Sorry, we’re not buying it.
Second, our movement is strong and getting stronger every day. It’s built on a simple premise: build power to win policy change. Our fundamentals, noted below, are what give us confidence.
So what, you might say. Even if the pro-reform forces have more strength and stronger fundamentals, how are you going to convince the House of Representatives to overcome their antipathy towards minorities and vote for a path to citizenship? After all, these are the same Republicans who a year ago wanted to deport the 11 million, and who fear that in 15 years from now those legalized will bolster the ranks of Democrats.
Our response? It’s all to play for. Let’s go for broke leave it all on the field. The commentariat may be growing bored or angry with what they see as a replay of every other major issue, but this year’s immigration debate is far from over. It may feel like the fourth quarter to some, but House Republicans are still in the first half. Individually and collectively they are trying to figure out where they land on policy, what the implications are for those decisions politically and what might be the consequences of their choices.
The fact of the matter is that the pressure on Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is increasing. He’s already told his caucus inaction is not an option. He either gets it done or gets blamed for screwing the GOP for a generation. So what is leadership going to do? I predict we’ll see an immigration week this fall in which a number of bills – including bills that provide for legalization and citizenship options – will be taken up in sequence. Those that passed will be reconciled with the Senate bill and a decent bill will be signed into law.
But what about the so-called Hastert rule? That’s an excuse, not a rule, and he’s disregarded it three times already this year. No, even Boehner won’t sacrifice his party’s future for the sake of a rule that’s not a rule. In fact, the best thing opponents of reform have going for them is the pessimism so evident in the punditry. It lets Boehner and House Republican leadership off the hook at a time when our movement is ready to hold them accountable like never before.
So, Josh, hang in there, brother. You can rest assured that our movement is way woken up. We are strong, getting stronger and fighting to win. Our goal is legislation that solves the problem for millions of immigrants, and for all of America. And we aren’t just running out the clock. We are confident that our fundamentals will overcome their nativism.
After all, this is about more than immigration reform. It’s about the future of the Republican Party, and therefore the future of American politics. And the GOP should be clear: this is the last time the immigration reform movement and Democrats in the Senate and House are prepared to give the GOP a get-out-of-jail card. If the GOP comes through on reform this year, they get to share credit and earn a chance to rehabilitate their image with voters hungry for solutions and with voters from immigrant and ethnic communities.
And if they get to no, we will bury them.