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The Republican Party has embarked on a major overhaul of its recent anti-immigrant stance, spurred in large part by historically low levels of support from Latino voters in the 2012 elections. Yet judging from the witnesses that Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) called at yesterday’s immigration hearing, not everyone in the GOP has gotten the memo. Grassley and leading anti-immigrant Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) used the proceedings to provide a platform for Kris Kobach and Mark Krikorian, both of whom continue to push the discredited and politically toxic concept of “self-deportation.”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Despite the thoughtful leadership demonstrated by Republican ‘Gang of 8’ members on immigration reform, some Republican Senators remain stuck in the past. After Krikorian and Kobach’s immigration advice cost Romney the election, it’s incredible that some members of the GOP are still cozying up to them. Were Pete Wilson, Tom Tancredo, and Joe Arpaio unavailable?
In his opening remarks, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) noted the broad support for commonsense immigration reform and the fact that many of the witnesses called by the Republicans “are not mainstream witnesses.” As a reminder, Kris Kobach was an immigration advisor to Mitt Romney and the man most responsible for the candidate’s infamous embrace of self-deportation in 2012. Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and a former General Counsel of the anti-immigrant group FAIR, was also the architect of the Arizona and Alabama “show me your papers” laws and the lead drafter of the RNC’s Draconian immigration policy platform in 2012. Kobach even filed a lawsuit seeking to block the implementation of the DREAMer deferred action program and block hundreds of thousands of young aspiring citizens from getting a work permit and continuing to achieve their goals. Meanwhile, Mark Krikorian is the head of the anti-immigrant think tank Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and the original “brains” behind the GOP’s embrace of self-deportation. When Mitt Romney supported the concept in his 2012 presidential run, Krikorian crowed about it.
Despite the fact that Romney’s anti-immigration sentiments contributed to his electoral drubbing from Latino voters, Kobach and Krikorian remain committed to the concept of self-deportation. At yesterday’s hearing, Kobach not only indicated his preference that DREAMers self-deport, but also claimed, “self-deportation is not some radical idea.” In response, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) noted, ”the voters have the last word. The voters had the last word on self-deportation on November 6th, so we’re beyond that now.”
In another head scratcher at yesterday’s hearing, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said:
I don’t think that there is any issue in this entire debate that is more divisive than a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally…In my view, any bill that insists upon that jeopardizes the likelihood of passing any immigration reform bill.
Despite Cruz’s assertion, citizenship already is the mainstream position in the debate. Among an array of polls demonstrating citizenship’s popularity, a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that nearly two-thirds of the public backs citizenship on its own. However, “when told that the pathway to citizenship would require paying fines and back taxes, as well as passing a security-background check, support grows – with 76 percent of total respondents, and 73 percent of Republicans backing the path.” These findings are further highlighted by a new CNN/ORC International poll which finds 84% overall support for citizenship and 78% support amongst Republicans.
The choice before the GOP is clear. Follow the example of the Gang of 8 Republicans, work to pass immigration reform and change your image with Latino voters—or follow the examples of Cruz, Sessions, and Grassley and walk right over that demographic cliff.