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Greg Sargent: The GOP's Position on Immigration is Deportations

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Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte went on Al Punto with Jorge Ramos this weekend, where Ramos asked the Congressman about immigration and deportations.  Unfortunately, when Ramos asked Rep. Goodlatte if he wanted Obama to deport more immigrants, Goodlatte couldn’t give a straight answer.  According to Greg Sargent at the Washington Post today, the episode is an illustration of the GOP’s real position on immigration: the fact that they as a party want more deportations — they just can’t say so.

Here’s the key interaction between Goodlatte and Jorge Ramos:

BOB GOODLATTE: That is the problem.  Only people who committed serious crimes.

JORGE RAMOS: So your point is that you want more people to be deported?

BG: My point is that I want the President to enforce the law, and that way Congress will feel the pressure to reach a resolution to deal with the people who are lawfully here, who have been law abiding citizens. And if they meet the terms that the law might provide, like paying taxes and paying a fine, and learning civics about the United States, and other things like that, we could reach a solution.  But if the President keeps showing that he won’t enforce current law, then we’re going to have this ongoing problem where people in the Congress don’t trust that.  And that creates a problem for me.  Trying to convince my fellow members to do it.

And below is the commentary from Greg Sargent:

This is how Republicans have boxed themselves in on this issue: They’ve defined “enforcing the law” as maximizing deportations from the interior, no matter who gets removed. It’s true that removals from the interior have dropped under Obama. But that reflects the fact that the administration is prioritizing removals of people caught crossing the border, which have gone up, and has deprioritized the removal of certain classes from the interior. By defining that shift in priorities as a failure to enforce the law, and claiming this as the chief obstacle to moving forward with their own proposals to legalize the 11 million, Republicans have effectively defined their policy stance as follows: Obama is not deporting enough low level offenders with lives here, so therefore we won’t embrace any form of legal status for them.

Goodlatte can’t admit to this directly, of course. But  Goodlatte’s interview serves as a reminder that the real obstacle to reform is that Republicans are not yet willing to embrace any form of legalization for the 11 million under any circumstances. Jeb Bush’s recent comments about immigration were controversial precisely because they constituted a moral challenge to Republicans to find a way to accept legal status for the 11 million. Indeed, Goodlatte himself suggests that legalization for the 11 million is the goal — while implicitly acknowledging that Republicans can’t support this becausenot enough of them currently living and working here are getting deported. It’s a nonsensical position, but that is inescapably their stance, and it’s good to have this demonstrated so graphically by a senior Republican.