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Beware the “Cornyn Con” on Immigration

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Nothing in life is certain except death, taxes, and John Cornyn talking a good game but getting to “no” on immigration when it counts.

Yesterday, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) took to the Senate floor to criticize Democrats for insisting that Dreamer relief be included in must-pass legislation before the end of the year. Cornyn said that Democrats, who are fighting to protect Dreamers whose lives were upended by President Trump when he ended DACA in September, are “cynical and hysterical” and are putting the needs of Dreamers ahead of Americans.

There he goes again.

We know this movie. We know the main character, and we know the plot. Call it the “Cornyn Con.” Here’s how it goes: Cornyn pretends he wants to help immigrants and get immigration reform enacted; he convinces some of his fellow Republicans he’s earnest and acting in good faith; they encourage him to try to make common cause with Democrats; he makes sure he demands just enough to appear reasonable to Republicans who want to get to yes, while ensuring Democrats can never agree to his bottom line; he then proclaims that Democrats are demanding too much and tries to take as many Republicans with him as possible in an effort to blow up any prospect of a bipartisan breakthrough.

How do we know how the plot unfolds? Cornyn executed the Cornyn Con when immigration reform had a chance to pass the Senate in 2006, 2007, and 2013. He failed to thwart Senate approval of immigration reform in 2006 and 2013; he helped to defeat it in 2007. Whatever the outcome, it’s always the same play.

Will it work this time?

No, it won’t. His colleagues are onto him. His maneuver is so well-known that it’s entirely predictable and easily dismissed. For example, Senator Durbin (D-IL), the Senate champion of the Dreamers, recently sat down with Cornyn and Cornyn’s partner-in-crime, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) to see if they could make common cause. The understanding throughout Congress is that the key to a bipartisan deal is some combination of the Dream Act and border security. Here’s what Durbin had to say afterwards:

“First they said, ‘We’re not going to give you the Dream Act, and here are five things we must have that go way beyond border security.’ They wanted to change an international treaty standard for asylum. What?” Durbin said with dramatic effect. “So I sat down with Grassley and Cornyn twice, personally, and said, ‘Let’s be honest. Neither of you have ever voted for an immigration bill and probably never will. I’ve got to sit down and negotiate with people who might vote for this bill.’ So I’ve had a lot of different conversations going on since, including one with Sen. Cornyn.”

You see, Durbin is very familiar with the Cornyn Con. Like all of us who have been deeply involved in the immigration debate, the plot never changes.

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

Let’s cut through fog machine, and call it as we see it: John Cornyn is out to derail the Dream Act. With silver tongue, moderate voice and devious intent, he is determined to scuttle a bipartisan deal by pretending to be for something as a means of opposing it. It’s the type of thing that drives Americans crazy – their politicians playing games rather than producing results. One thing we know for sure: the Cornyn way is the way to a blame game and blowing past Cornyn is the way to a breakthrough.

According to Mario Carrillo, Director for America’s Voice Texas:

It’s a shame that with an historic opportunity to do the right thing, Senator Cornyn is doing what he always does on immigration: looking to undermine attempts at progress. What happens in the coming weeks are of huge consequences for the 150,000 Dreamers in Texas, but he’s willing to sabotage their future, no matter the impact, in order to point fingers and blame others. Senator Cornyn’s party controls the White House, the Senate and the U.S. House, and his attempts to blame Democrats for Republicans’ divisions fall flat. He should stop the spin and get out of the way so real leaders can find a solution on an issue where his leadership has always been fake, and he’s always managed to fail us at the end of the day.