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The GOP’s Revisionist Immigration History

by Pili Tobar on 06/22/2012 at 1:44pm

As the issue of immigration takes center stage, and the political world watches the dueling speeches of Mitt Romney and President Obama at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) conference, the Republican echo chamber seems to have settled on a set of talking points.  Together, they add up to yet another attempt to obscure the GOP’s obstructionism, paper over the GOP’s extremism, and cover up the GOP’s deep divisions on the issue.

Below are several of the frequent Republican attacks, arguments, and misinformation that need correction, context, and accuracy:

We want a “long-term solution” for DREAMers, they say.  But Republicans blocked the DREAM Act in Congress and Romney has promised to veto it should it pass.  In yesterday’s NALEO speech, Romney noted, “I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President’s temporary measure” regarding protecting DREAMers and stated, “As President, I won’t settle for a stop-gap measure.  I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution.”  Not only did this duck the substance of what he would do regarding DREAM youth, but it ignored Romney’s pledge to veto the DREAM Act, as he infamously promised in the primary season.  Moreover, it ignored the essential point that Democrats have consistently championed the DREAM Act while Republicans have blocked it from becoming law.  The best “long-term solution” is the traditionally bi-partisan DREAM Act, which would already by law if Republicans had not voted against it by a 36-3 margin in the Senate (along with 160-8 in the House) in December 2010.  Similarly, President Obama’s remarks on behalf of his “stop-gap measure” called for Congress to enact the DREAM Act and provide a permanent fix – yet Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) decided to not introduce his long-awaited Republican alternative to the DREAM Act after the President’s announcement, making the legislative fix that much more difficult.  Finally, Think Progress called congressional Republican offices and found that by a 147-1 margin, these legislators were against the President’s DREAMer protection.  If the Republicans really want a “long-term solution” on DREAM youth, they sure have a funny way of showing it.

President Obama and the Democrats promised to enact immigration reform but never tried to move it, they say.  The record is clear: Democrats and Obama tried and Republicans obstructed.  We at America’s Voice have been critical of the Obama Administration for not making immigration reform a higher priority, but the Republican talking point that the President and Democrats never tried to advance comprehensive immigration reform is a rich bit of revisionist history.  Yesterday Romney claimed, “For two years, this President had huge majorities in the House and Senate – he was free to pursue any policy he pleased. But he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system.”  In reality, President Obama and Democrats pushed for a bi-partisan approach to comprehensive immigration reform from 2009 through 2011, only to be blocked at every turn by congressional Republicans.  In 2009, President Obama met with members of Congress to push for immigration legislation; in 2010, with the President’s endorsement, Senate Democrats presented a reform blueprint, and then President Obama delivered a major address on immigration reform; in 2011, President Obama convened a bi-partisan meeting of leaders to press for reform and delivered another major immigration speech in El Paso, TX calling for reform and introducing a White House blueprint for reform.  Despite the repeated efforts to get Republicans to the table, not one showed up.  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) engaged with Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) in 2009-10 and even co-published an op-ed with Schumer in 2010 calling for comprehensive immigration reform.  But ultimately even Graham would not agree to go forward unless a second Republican joined with him.  None did.  This is consistent with the Republican decision to block Obama and the Democrats at every turn, and to, in the infamous words of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, pursue their top objective: to make President Obama a one-term President.  Witness the above-referenced DREAM Act.  Even when Democrats narrowed their focus from a comprehensive reform package to a bill solely affecting DREAM-eligible youth – a bill that was originally co-authored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and previously attracted broad bipartisan support – and it achieved 55 votes in the Senate for its passage, only 3 Republican Senators voted for it, with the rest voting for the GOP filibuster that kept it from passing.

Let’s secure the border first, and then we can move onto broader comprehensive reform, they say.  But even with the border being more secure than ever and illegal immigration across it at net zero, the GOP keeps denying it.  The long-time Republican talking point about the need to “secure the border first” before “other issues” can be addressed has long been an excuse rather than an answer.  Over the past year, it’s become clear to all that net migration has reversed, the border is safer than ever, and unprecedented resources and manpower have been dedicated to border security.  Nevertheless, the GOP tenaciously hangs onto its talking point.  Witness Romney yesterday stating, “As I have said many times, it is critical that we redouble our efforts to secure the borders…”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Romney and the Republicans seem to have perfected the art of blaming Obama and the Democrats for not doing anything on immigration, when it’s been Republican obstructionism that’s been the main obstacle, and of not really saying anything of substance on immigration, while pretending to be for some vague notion of reform.  We still await answers to the key immigration questions that Romney ducked yesterday: if he’s President, what will happen to the DREAMers who President Obama moved to protect?  What will happen to the rest of the undocumented immigrants, given you see Arizona as a model for the nation and have not retreated from your “self-deportation” stance?  And when are you going to stand up to the nativists in your party in a display of leadership that has been notably absent all the way through yesterday’s NALEO speech?

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