In his effort to secure enough support to become the new U.S. House Speaker following the historic ouster of California Rep. Kevin McCarthy earlier this month, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan proposed an unrealistic, cruel, and likely unlawful immigration demand as part of the next round of government funding talks. Per Greg Sargent at The Washington Post:
With the government set to run out of funding in mid-November, the Ohio Republican told Punchbowl News that he will inject a new demand into the next round of fiscal talks.
“No money can be used to process or release into the country any new migrants,” Jordan said, referencing the large number of new arrivals that have bedeviled the Biden administration, adding that funding must get a “time out.” This demand will be “non-negotiable,” reports Punchbowl, because Jordan “has no flexibility” with other Republicans on this matter — presumably because to get elected speaker, he has to vow to threaten a shutdown to win concessions from Democrats.
Jordan failed to win a majority of the GOP caucus votes for Speaker. But, he is still Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, giving him continued say over immigration matters. And now Jordan’s proposal, no matter how extreme and unworkable it may be, will be a litmus test as the House continues to fight over who can be the most aggressive nativist in their conference.
It’s true that Jordan’s latest anti-immigrant schemes are essentially non-starters in the Senate, even if some manage to pass the House. But for Jordan and his many allies, actually solving the challenges at the border is counterproductive to their political project. Writing at MSNBC, Paul Waldman noted:
“In fact, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Republicans are actually quite happy with the immigration system just the way it is. They love giving speeches about it, making campaign ads about it, shouting about it in Congress, shaking their fists about it on television, and organizing photo-ops at the Rio Grande. They repeat the words “open borders” like a mantra, threaten to impeach the secretary of homeland security, and tell everyone who’ll listen that America is being invaded by criminals and terrorists.
But while they’ve been talking about this problem for a long time, they haven’t done anything to solve it.”
“Migrants who ask for asylum after being apprehended on U.S. soil, even ones who entered illegally between ports of entry, must get an official interview,” Sargent notes on Jordan’s demands. House Republicans have already been hellbent on gutting our nation’s asylum system while blocking real reforms at the border. In a one-two extremism punch, one GOP member invoked white nationalist great replacement theory to start debate on a grab bag of cruel and unworkable policies that would make Stephen Miller giddy. Republicans called it “H.R. 2,” but a more apt name for it was the “Child Detention Act” because it increases the detention of vulnerable individuals, and would have even created a show-me-your-papers scenario during natural disasters.
House Republicans passed H.R. 2 and held it up as their signature policy on immigration over actual solutions that might work at the border. Republicans want to implement many of the same policies that failed utterly during the Trump administration. But the GOP House proposal was always way too extreme to not be DOA on the Senate floor or President Biden’s desk. H.R.2 is only as valuable as the paper it’s printed on, yet Republicans still wave it around as part of their political stunts. It’s not a serious attempt at legislating.
But their record of obstruction and inaction on realistic policy stretches back at least a decade, notably House Republicans’ refusal to take up the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform package that passed the Senate with significant GOP support. Former Speaker John Boehner’s inaction and acquiescence to the anti-immigrant wing would mark the beginning of the GOP’s rapid descent into the kind of gloom, white supremacist radicalism, and nativism we see today.
That includes House Republicans perpetuating the cynical lie that the fentanyl crisis is tied to immigration, despite the fact that most fentanyl is trafficked through land ports of entry by U.S citizens. But Republicans who are politicizing this issue have largely failed to be a part of the solution, including voting against critical funding for ports of entry modernization and inspection.
“Most Republicans voted against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included $430 million to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the construction and modernization of land ports of entry. Improvements like ‘multi-energy portal’ screening technology would increase the ability for illicit narcotics seizures at the nation’s borders without significantly impacting the massive amount of legal trade that runs through those same POEs,” America’s Voice Political Director Zachary Mueller wrote earlier this year. “Without the upgraded infrastructure, fewer than five percent of trucks are being screened with the new technology.”
Republicans also “blocked the White House’s $4 billion supplemental funding request that would include support for border enforcement, migrant services, and the hiring of new immigration judges tasked with adjudicating asylum claims,” Vox News reported earlier this month. Even as cities like New York City have struggled to welcome new migrants, GOP lawmakers have actively sought to upend these efforts, by introducing legislation that would block federal funds from being used to address migrants in so-called sanctuary cities.
House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, currently leading a baseless impeachment effort against the president, even proclaimed that he “‘would love to cut off all funding for everything’ before discussing the best way to secure the U.S.-Mexico border,” the Daily Beast reported last year.
Most Congressional Republicans have also refused to support bills putting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and farmworkers on a path to legalization. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act and the Dream & Promise Act passed the House during the previous Congress, but have not been taken up by this one.
Some proposals have even been squashed before they’ve had a chance to become a bill. While never officially introduced as legislation, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema late last year held talks regarding a proposed plan addressing border security and permanent protections for DACA recipients. The talks came after the Senate Parliamentarian, an unelected staffer, refused to allow Democrats to pass immigration provisions through the budget reconciliation process.
But top Senate Republicans — including Texas Senator John Cornyn — dusted off “border first” excuses to derail any further progress, continuing to leave anxious young immigrants and their families on edge as Republicans also attack their DACA protections in the judiciary. At America’s Voice, we call it the “Cornyn Con” because the Texas Senator goes to great lengths to sound reasonable on immigration, when his every move is crafted to make sure immigration reform never happens.
Speaking of the judiciary, the conservative courts have also been a tool that Republicans have used to challenge and block border actions. In the face of Congressional inaction, the Biden administration used its authority under law to implement a parole program that allows some Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan migrants to apply to enter the U.S. if they have a sponsor. But Republican states led by corrupt Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have sought to block this program through the anti-immigrant judicial pipeline. Republicans constantly claim that they’re in favor of legal immigration, but their actions continue to say otherwise.
“The current ‘chaos’ at the border that Republicans are railing about is much more about their obstruction of broader legislative modernization than it is about the Biden administration’s policies,” we’ve previously noted. “The GOP seems more interested in continuing a broken and chaotic status quo and perpetuating a crisis than working on real solutions at the border or real efforts to modernize our immigration system.”