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Sunday Show: On Immigration, It’s Put Up or Shut Up Time for the GOP

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The prospects for passing immigration reform improved markedly this week. A new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report shows that immigration reform grows the economy and reduces the deficit.  The latest Gallup poll shows broad and deep support for reform that includes a path to citizenship.  And an over-the-top bipartisan deal in the Senate more than answers Republican complaints about border enforcement.

The bottom line: Republicans in both chambers have no more excuses but to do the right thing and help make immigration reform a reality this year.  On immigration, it’s put up or shut up time for the GOP.

  • Time for Senate GOP to Deliver: A new border security amendment authored by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and John Hoeven (R-ND), while terrible public policy that threatens the rights and well-being of border communities, puts a stake through the argument by many Republicans that the Senate bill is weak on border security.  As the Los Angeles Times notes, it advances, “a military-style buildup along the U.S. border with Mexico, doubling the number of Border Patrol agents on the ground and tripling the number of drones overhead — a $30-billion plan designed to win the votes of as many as 15 Republican senators for the immigration reform bill.  The plan would add so many new agents to the Border Patrol — 20,000 — that if all were deployed at once, they could be stationed roughly every 250 feet along the border, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.” First, let us be clear.  This is terrible public policy.  It is wasteful and unnecessary, and will threaten the civil rights and well-being of border communities.  Additional spending from Corker and Hoeven’s amendment is on top of existing border enforcement pillars.  We already spend unprecedented sums, devote unprecedented resources, and have made unprecedented progress at the border.  Further, the bill that emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee provides massive additional resources toward both interior and border enforcement, adding up to the largest increase in immigration enforcement in U.S. history.  Nevertheless, it seems that this is Republicans’ high price for passing reform.  And one thing the amendment surely does is put a stake through the argument from many Republicans that the Senate bill is weak on border security.  As Senator John McCain said of his Republican colleagues in reference to the Corker-Hoeven amendment, “If they can’t accept these provisions, then border security is not their problem.”
  • Immigration Showdown in the House: This week, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to hold a constructive conversation about how to move immigration reform forward.  Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee moved forward on several bills this well that all serve as a disturbing homage to the worst immigration policy approaches of recent years; and anti-immigrant zealot Rep. Steve King embarked on a six-hour press conference to rail against immigration reform  While some House Republicans understand that 2013 is the year to pass real immigration reform, it’s clear that the anti-immigrant wing of Speaker Boehner’s Republican caucus is not letting go without a fight.  The Speaker has to make a choice: either continue to embolden the anti-immigrant crazies in his caucus, like Steve King, or exercise leadership and help deliver the reform he knows our nation and his Party needs.  As National Journal captured in an article titled, “The GOP’s Steve King Problem,” the anti-immigrant wing of the GOP is causing political headaches for those who care about the long-term national viability of the Republican Party.  However, Speaker Boehner could side with the bipartisan majority in the House that is prepared to vote for reform with a path to citizenship.  As New York Times editorial writer Lawrence Downes captures in a new column: “…it is possible to pass a bill that includes the smartest and soundest immigration policy, that solves the Republican Party’s broken relations with Latinos, that secures the border and that gives the country the 21st-century immigration system it needs.  Such a bill could pass – there are enough Republicans and Democrats to send it straight through both houses and onto Mr. Obama’s desk.  But it would need the help of that thing – what do you call it?  Majority rule.  Democracy.  An up-or-down vote.”

Immigration Reform with Citizenship is Good Economics & Good Policy:  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score of the Senate’s immigration bill this week, showing that the legislation would slash the federal deficit by $197 billion in the first 10 years and by $700 billion in the 10 years after that.  Despite claims from anti-immigrant opponents, the CBO shows that immigrants are and will continue to be productive contributors to our economy and society — not a drain, but a gain for our nation.  As the Washington Post editorial board writes, “The CBO’s estimates stand in stark contrast to a dubious Heritage Foundation study warning that immigration reform would become a fiscal black hole.  The Heritage report views immigrants as burdens, not as strivers.  This myopic and regressive outlook has been proved wrong by generation after generation.  As the CBO pointed out, immigration reform will have powerful knock-on effects on the economy as new workers boost savings, consumption and productivity.” 

In addition to the CBO analysis, a new Gallup poll this week shows that 87% of Americans support “a multifaceted pathway to citizenship that includes a long waiting period, taxes and a penalty, background checks, and learning English.” Amongst Democrats, Republicans and Independents support for citizenship remains strong with 86% of Democrats, 88% of Independents and 86% of Republicans supporting.    

The next few weeks will be crucial. But, the policy, the politics and the momentum are on our side.