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House GOP’s One-Two Punch: Last Week Votes to Deport DREAMers & Next Week Moves Bill to Make All Undocumented Criminals

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Will Adults in Republican Party Stand Up to Cynical, Mean-Spirited, and Draconian Legislation from House GOP? 

Early next week, the House Judiciary Committee is primed to move forward on new and draconian immigration legislation that shows that they have learned nothing since the 2012 election and are intent to duplicate and repeat the policy and political mistakes of the past.

  • House SAFE Act Modeled After Sensenbrenner Bill, AZ “Show Me Your Papers,” and Romney’s “Self-Deportation” Approaches: Introduced by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and advancing next week in the House Judiciary Committee, the SAFE Act is a disturbing homage to the worst immigration policy approaches of recent years.  Like the infamous Sensenbrenner bill of 2005, the SAFE Act would “turn millions of those [undocumented] immigrants into criminals overnight.” Like Arizona’s “show me your papers” SB1070 law, which the Supreme Court largely overturned, it would turn local law enforcement into de facto immigration agents, encouraging racial profiling and sowing seeds of distrust between police and the community.  Like Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” plan, it aims to make life in the United States so ugly that undocumented immigrants pack up and leave on their own.
  • House GOP Advancing Bill that Calls Immigrants “Criminals” After Last Week Voting to Deport DREAMers: Next week’s push on the SAFE Act follows last week’s House passage of an amendment from leading anti-immigrant zealot Steve King that would undo the DREAMer deferred action program and threaten Dreamers with deportation.  Clearly, the House Republicans are intent to squander the best opportunity in years to build a modern immigration system in favor of doubling down on enforcement-only policies that have been our default immigration policy for over two decades and have helped build the broken immigration status quo.
  • Approach Shows the GOP Has Learned Nothing Politically: By moving next week’s immigration bills forward, it shows that House Republicans have learned nothing since the 2012 election.  Republicans keep talking about improving their standing with Latino voters, but actions speak louder than words.  So far, House Republicans seem intent on driving the GOP fully off a demographic cliff and cementing the Republican Party’s brand image as anti-Latino.  In fact, they are advancing legislation eerily reminiscent of the very immigration policies that helped to spark Latino political engagement and defeat Republican candidates in recent years – the 2005 Sensenbrenner bill and the 2010 Arizona law cemented the GOP’s image as anti-immigrant and anti-Latino, inspiring massive demonstrations against the laws and sharply shifting the political calculus of Latino voters.  In 2004, approximately 40% of Latinos supported the pro-comprehensive immigration reform Republican candidate for President, George W. Bush.  In 2012, only 23% of Latinos supported Mitt “Self-Deportation” Romney.
  • Rep. Trey Gowdy Not Living Up to His Stated Vision of Immigrants & Reform: Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the sponsor of the SAFE Act, said in January 2013, “Peoples’ desire to improve their lives resonates with me, no matter where they’re from” and noted that, “In my district, what’s said from the pulpit carries a lot of weight in terms of how we define morality.”  It’s curious, therefore, that Rep. Gowdy is advancing legislation that labels undocumented immigrants as criminals, while a diverse array of faith communities, including many conservative evangelicals and the Southern Baptist Convention, are strongly backing immigration reform that calls a path to citizenship for the undocumented, not a stamp of criminality.

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

Who’s calling the shots in the House Republican caucus, Steve King or John Boehner?  While there is a bipartisan group working on sensible comprehensive House immigration legislation, instead they are marking up and moving forward on regressive and politically stupid legislation.  While we may have had low expectations for the House Judiciary Committee given its history and Member composition, we have high expectations for House leadership.  It’s up to Speaker Boehner and his leadership team to determine whether the GOP survives as a national party, or follows Steve King over the demographic cliff.  We know that a bipartisan majority of House members would support sensible immigration reform if it came to a vote.  The question is, are House Republican leaders going to keep pandering to a minority within their conference and within the country?  Or are they going to exercise leadership and govern for all?