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Florida Republican’s Immigration Bill Crashes Into an Extreme Anti-Immigrant GOP

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Bill Introduction Is Cynical Politics, Not Good Faith Legislation

Washington, DC – Yesterday, South Florida Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar introduced immigration legislation titled “The Dignity Act,” which we characterized as “a press release aimed at immigrant voters in her Florida district … designed to burnish her re-election chances, not a serious effort to pass legislation or take on the nativists in the GOP.” It is hard to take her effort seriously when House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is vowing to never let “amnesty” bills get a vote; when Florida Republicans are attacking migrant children; and when party leaders are whipping up fear over secret plots to replace white people. Need more evidence? Here are reasons why it’s cynical politics that’s behind the legislative introduction:

  • It’s a play to blame Democrats for legislative inaction when GOP is blocking immigration reform bills: As Roll Call’s Caroline Simon reported, Salazar said on a press call introducing the bill that, “The Democrats for the last 30 years have been promising immigration reform law to my community. Now the Republican Party once again is coming out and saying, ‘Welcome,’ because it’s not only good for them — but it’s good for the country.” If this was a real policy effort designed to broker a compromise, Salazar would have included outreach and engagement to Democratic champions that have worked for decades on this issue and her bill wouldn’t just feature GOP co-sponsors. Democrats control the majority and have already passed multiple immigration bills out of the House that are blockaded by Senate Republicans’ filibuster power. Her bill is  designed to confuse and obscure that Republicans are the dominant reason for continued legislative inaction on immigration.
  • It’s a bill that’s dead on arrival given Kevin McCarthy’s “no amnesty” pledge if he becomes House Speaker: Kevin McCarthy already pledged to Breitbart that “no amnesty would be considered” if Republicans controlled the majority and he became Speaker of the House. And Breitbart already is on the attack against the Salazar bill. Unless and until McCarthy and other GOPers stop kissing the nativist ring, the Rep. Salazar bill is dead on arrival and designed for optics, not as a real proposal. 
  • It avoids taking on the GOP’s ascendant and ugly nativism: Look at what other Republicans are doing and saying on immigration. The Republican Party and its elected officials, including Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third ranking member of Salazar’s House caucus, and GOP candidates are joining right wing media in pushing the racist Great Replacement Theory and other nativist conspiracies. Xenophobia is also constant theme in the twitter feed of the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC), which Salazar contributes to through her “Victory Committee.”  Close to home for Rep. Salazar, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis is leaning into ugly nativism and immigration falsehoods (ably demolished in this must read Fabiola Santiago column). In Arizona, Mark Brnovich, the state Attorney General and a candidate for the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, called immigration into the state an “invasion” in a legal opinion he issued this week justifying Arizona’s ability to send troops to the border. And national Republican candidates and official party committees continue to run hard on nativist tropes and lies (check out ongoing examples of Republicans’ anti-immigrant ads at the America’s Voice GOP Ad Tracker: http://gopadtracker.com/)   

According to Vanessa Cardenas, Deputy Director of America’s Voice: 

Press release politics to block progress on popular policies is the order of the day in the GOP. Every few years, Republicans from purple districts introduce immigration bills that are designed for politics and optics, not as a good faith effort to broker a bipartisan breakthrough. Their goal is always to muddy the waters about who’s to blame for the failure to enact long overdue reform legislation that is wildly popular among the American people but despised inside the Republican Party. As part of a well-honed disinformation machine that targets Florida Latinos, their goal is to try to position themselves as good faith policy brokers and a softer brand of Republican ahead of their re-election campaigns. It’s the height of cynical politics and opportunism. 

It’s not that Rep. Salazar is naive about the rest of the Republican Party and their open embrace of nativism. Instead of taking on those forces in her Party, she is in concert with those same forces and enables them by seeking to launder the Republican brand for select diverse districts ahead of the midterms, while seeking to blame Democrats for legislative inaction on immigration reform blocked by Republicans. It’s an effort designed to manipulate voters and put Republicans in power at a time when doing so would harm, not help, immigrant communities and the prospects for popular, sensible legislation.

We welcome real bipartisan efforts to pass immigration legislation. This is not that.