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House GOP Should Hurry Up & Evolve Already on Immigration

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House GOP Leaders Float Baby Steps at a Time When Broad Reform is Needed

In recent days House Republicans are floating ideas and expressing optimism that they can get something done on immigration reform.  There’s talk of a KIDS Act to help Dreamers.  There’s talk of piecemeal measures that might add up to a comprehensive approach.  There’s talk of legalization but without an achievable path to citizenship for most.  But from a policy and a political perspective, half-steps and small ball just don’t measure up.

Among the key developments:

  • Speaker Boehner yesterday advocated for moving forward on a Republican version of the DREAM Act, describing an emerging consensus among his conference that “this issue needs to be addressed,“ noting that the principle of “basic fairness” was at stake, and stating, “These children were brought here of no accord of their own, and frankly they’re in a very difficult position.”
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) concurred, saying, “These in many instances are kids without a country if we don’t allow them to become full citizens of our country…It is not only an issue of fairness, as the Speaker said, it’s an issue of decency and compassion.  Where else would these kids go?”
  • House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told the Silicon Valley website TechCrunch that, in the interviewer’s re-telling, Rep. Goodlatte is “convinced that Republicans broadly support immigration reform and that Congress can forge a bi-partisan bill.”  Specifically, Rep. Goodlatte embraced a less-than-citizenship approach, noting, “They can work here, they can own a business here, they can travel to or from their home country or anywhere in the world, they can pay their taxes, and then they can have an opportunity that they don’t have now.”
  • House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said in an interview with the conservative National Review, “There are two ways you can handle adversity — you can deny it or you can overcome it. We overcame it on the farm bill, and that was when we had a timeline that was very fast…[regarding immigration] We control our own clock, and we don’t have to worry about whether the Democrats are trying to speed it up…If we take our time, we’ll be able to try to solve the problem.”
  • Representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Raul Labrador (R-ID), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and Spencer Bachus (R-AL) are profiled by the Daily Beast’s Patricia Murphy as the keys to getting reform done in the House.
  • Representatives Mike Coffman (R-CO), Joe Heck (R-NV) and Gary Miller (R-CA) are facing major immigration-focused Spanish-language advertising campaigns being deployed in their heavily-Latino districts by the Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC, showing what’s in store for Republicans should they fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Meanwhile, Democrats are standing strong and the public’s views are clear.

  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) noted that, “The Dreamers wouldn’t want that,” referring to proposals that would address their plight while ignoring or offering less-than-citizenship status for their parents.  Reid also noted, “They are not going to be used as a pawn by the tea party.”
  • Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) stated, “If they’re going to talk about doing something for Dreamers that’s short of even what the President did?  I mean, come on.  We’ve been there, we’ve done that, that’s so yesterday…So much of this sounds like last century’s conversation on immigration.  And I think for most of us…who believe this is a personal issue on immigration, to be part of any effort to create a second class of Americans, I just can’t swallow that.”
  • A new National Journal/United Technologies poll finds that, “only one in five voters said they prefer that the House pass no immigration legislation at all, and only 13 percent said they want the House to strip the path to citizenship from the Senate’s bill,” according to the accompanying poll recap from National Journal. “The trouble for Republicans is that passing immigration legislation without a path to citizenship was respondents’ least popular option across all age groups and income levels, among both men and women, in cities, suburbs, and rural areas.”  (A new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds 55%-41% support in favor of a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, this strong majority support for citizenship is despite the fact that the poll unnecessarily separates the citizenship provision from descriptions of border enforcement, unlike the Senate legislation and the basic framework of comprehensive reform).
  • Pew Research Center polling conducted with USA Today finds that Republican voters grasp that supporting legalization for the undocumented will benefit the Republican Party’s national electoral competitiveness.  As the Pew Research poll recap states, “Among Republicans, 39% say that supporting legal status would help the party in national elections while 20% say it would hurt the party politically and 40% say it would not make much difference.”  Among self-identified Tea Party-supporting Republicans, 38% believed that supporting legal status would help the GOP in national elections, while only 23% thought it would hurt the GOP.

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

The House should hurry up and evolve already.  The Senate has passed a strong if imperfect bill that combines enforcement, legal immigration reforms and legalization with a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America.  This will grow the economy, reduce the deficit and curtail unauthorized immigration.  It’s noteworthy that many House Republicans are moving away from their Stone Age stand in support of self-deportation and arriving in the Middle Ages of half-steps, but the challenge is to build a 21st Century immigration system that is workable and humane through a comprehensive reform.  Anything less just won’t cut it.