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In Passing Immigration Reform, Republicans Cannot Afford to Wait

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After spending all of last year rotating through a litany of excuses for why they couldn’t pass immigration reform (including President Obama, the Democrats, the fiscal crisis, the legislative calendar, and immigration reform advocates themselves), House Republicans have cycled back to the beginning, once again using their hatred for and distrust of President Obama as an excuse to do nothing on immigration.

The Heritage Foundation, and Steve King, have both openly suggested that immigration reform stay off the table until President Obama leaves the White House altogether.  The conservative National Review, in its latest editorial, implies that as long as Obama is in office, there is no policy that Congress could pass, and nothing that Obama could say or do, that would convince them that the border is being sufficiently defended.

But as a Washington Post editorial put it today, “The plain fact is that enforcement, in the form of dragnet deportations and border security, as measured by boots on the ground and illegal crossings, have never been tighter.”

And former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert — whose name is on the “rule” that Speaker Boehner is using to prevent a vote on immigration reform, even though there are enough votes to pass it in the House — said as much in a Politico Magazine piece, where he argues that the enforcement programs of the last few years have furthered our national security interests.  And immigration reform would improve security even more, by giving officials more information on who has entered and exited the country.

Americans already spend $18 billion on immigration enforcement every year — that’s more than we spend on all other law enforcement agencies combined.  President Obama has deported nearly 2 million people — that’s 2 million mothers, fathers, siblings, neighbors — a brutal record that immigration reform advocates (including America’s Voice) continue to decry.  Net migration from Mexico has been zero or less for a number of years.  If conservatives don’t think this enforcement is enough, what would enough enforcement look like?

Republicans seem to be harboring this fantasy that they can pass on doing immigration reform this year, and take it up after 2014 (when they’re convinced they’ll win the Senate) or after 2016 (when they think they might win the White House).  But let’s be real.  Conservatives actually shot down immigration reform in 2005-2007, when a Republican president who supported reform was in office.  And the kind of legislation they dream about passing — self-deportation, or the SAFE Act, or other enforcement-only bills — would never be accepted by Democrats and become law, unless they controlled all three branches of government.

And without immigration reform, that is a dream they can definitely kiss goodbye.  The electorate is only becoming more diverse.  Without action on issues like immigration reform this year, the GOP is in danger of never seeing a Republican president in the White House again.  If Republicans insist on waiting to control the Senate or the White House before they’ll tackle immigration reform, they’re going to be waiting a very long time.