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5 Key Points to Remember on Immigration, As Clock Ticks Toward Legislative Deadline

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With new stories and analysis breaking nearly every day, it can be hard to stay on top of the big picture when it comes to the immigration state play.  As a result, America’s Voice today offers five key points to keep in mind regarding the debate.

1.      It’s Up to John Boehner and House Republican Leaders to Deliver a Vote on Immigration: The legislative state of play on immigration is actually quite clear – despite his blame shifting and excuses, it’s up to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and other Republican leaders to deliver a vote on reform, as John Harwood of the New York Times explores today.  By the end of June, we will know if Speaker Boehner and House Republicans are seriously planning a real legislative push.  We’ll be watching not for vague rhetoric and wishful thinking, but for concrete actions such as introducing bills that include serious ways to address the status of 11 million undocumented immigrants and announcing floor votes to take place before the August recess.  See more of our take for why June is the make or break month for immigration.

2.      Talk of Immigration Reform Being Enacted in the Next Congress is Pure Fantasy:  An article by The Hill’s Alex Bolton today, “GOP: We’ll Move Immigration Reform if We Take Back Senate,” highlights new comments from Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) pledging to address and pass substantial – and Republican-friendly – immigration reform next year.  That’s a bad bet when you consider that some of the staunchest opponents of immigration reform in the Senate will still be around next year and possibly even in charge.  As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Politico last week, “Nobody in the Democratic Party is going to give us all we want on border security and new visas, unless you address the 11 million”—but there’s no way Grassley, Sessions, or Cornyn are going to get on board with something that can pass the Senate.  Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Greg Sargent, and Steve Benen have all done the political analysis, and the far safer bet is that inaction by House Republicans leaves the President room to advance bold administrative relief; the GOP enters yet another presidential cycle in the hole with Latino, Asian Pacific Islander American, and immigrant voters; and history repeats itself.

3.      Republicans Listening to Anti-Immigrant Groups Like the Center for Immigration Studies Should Ask Mitt Romney How That Worked Out For Him: The faux “think tank” at the heart of the anti-immigrant crowd, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) is close to Republican leadership of the House Judiciary Committee and is the original source for Mitt Romney’s disastrous “self-deportation” immigration position.  No matter the topic they weigh in on in their faux research “studies,” CIS acts like the expert.  But look underneath and you’ll see the same formula every time: mix shoddy methodology with immigrant stereotypes and conclude that the only way forward is to deport more immigrants by any means possible.  Needless to say, following the CIS advice didn’t work out so well for Romney – as he acknowledged last fall.  As conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin wrote:  “really the question becomes: Do House Republicans want to run as [Rep. Paul] Ryan Republicans or as CIS Republicans?”

4.      Democrats Are Leaning Into Immigration Like Never Before – Keeping the Legislative Heat On & Counseling Executive Action if the Window Closes in Congress: Republicans’ legislative window of opportunity is down to 43 days, as our www.gopcliff.com website explains.  Yet as the legislative window closes, it is opening for President Obama to take bold executive action to provide affirmative relief to undocumented immigrants with roots and ties in the United States.  Increasingly, leading Democrats such as Senator Chuck Schumer are making this case, calling for the House to take action on reform and to stop kowtowing to Steve King, and declaring their support for presidential executive action should the House GOP continue to obstruct.  See recent comments from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator Michael Bennet’s office, and congressional champion Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) for other examples of Democrats leaning in to the issue and calling for action.  Former White House chief of staff and congressman and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told ABC News and Yahoo News yesterday that he too believes that President Obama will “absolutely” take executive action on immigration if Congress fails to act, “because certain issues are so urgent to the nation’s future that a president must act.”  Mayor Emanuel’s evolution on immigration policy and politics is dramatic evidence of the new immigration paradigm– a reality many Republicans have yet to understand.

5.      Inaction is Not An Option – and is Unpopular with the Public (Even Tea Partiers!): The current House refusal to act on immigration reform is at odds with the public at large, including the Republican primary electorate.  As we have pointed out, the fear that Republican primary voters don’t support immigration reform is simply overstated and not borne out by actual conversations with voters and actual elections.  The latest evidence is a poll of self-identified Tea Party supporters, who overwhelmingly prefer action on immigration reform compared to the status quo, choosing a “deal between the President and Congress” over “the current immigration system the way it is” by a whopping 84-7% margin.  These Tea Party respondents are also surprisingly supportive of the tenets of broad reform along the lines of the Senate bill.  As conservative Republican pollster and consultant Jon Lerner said, “There are around 20 percent of GOP primary voters who oppose most forms of immigration reform.  This minority tends to be vocal, but their level of activism should not be confused with the size of their numbers.”  Yet it this small minority of the Republican base that Speaker Boehner and the rest of leadership is beholden to.  And unless that changes and changes soon, the GOP will simply be history.

321 Days Since Senate Passed its Immigration Bill; 43 Days Left Until Window of Opportunity Closes