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As President Seizes Moment to Move Country Forward on Immigration, GOP Moves Backward with Total Commitment to Deportation Strategy

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Political Observers Agree: Obama Action Will Leave GOP Eating Dust in 2016

At his Rose Garden announcement on Monday, President Obama made clear his intention to use his existing legal authority to stabilize the lives of as many qualified immigrants as possible.  As we’ve noted, when the President follows through, and if the executive action is indeed substantial, the differences between the two parties on an issue that mobilizes the fastest growing groups of new voters in the country will be cemented for a generation.

By making the distinctions between the parties on immigration indisputably clear and highlighting the fact that Republicans are blocking progress and heading in the wrong direction on the issue, observers have already clued in to the long-term political implications.  A range of commentators, from across the political spectrum, agree that the President’s announcement is a political tipping point and Republicans’ inaction have put them squarely on the losing end of the debate.  Among the commentators:

  • Wall Street Journal Editorial, “The Immigration Reform Collapse” – “The fallout from failure now will be more partisan blame-shifting and suspicion.  The President will try to please his base, and bait the GOP’s restrictionist wing, by easing deportations by executive order as the election nears.  Many Republicans will take the bait and overreact, increasing the perception of the GOP as hostile to minorities.  It’s possible that Republicans could revisit the issue next year if they get a majority in the Senate, and that will be one test of sincerity for such GOP counselors as Bill Kristol.  They claim to favor reform—just not this year.  But immigration opponents always find a new excuse for doing nothing, and some conservative fantasists claim that the GOP can be a majority party merely by squeezing out an ever-larger share of the declining white share of the electorate.  That is a recipe for President Clinton.”
  • New York magazine, Jonathan Chait, “Boehner Decides Helping Hillary Win is Better than Passing Immigration Reform” – “The failure of the House to pass a bill of any kind represents a fascinating case study of a party unable to act on its recognized political self-interest…And so Republicans may well find themselves in the position of watching their nominee pledging to prosecute or deport immigrant families or children pardoned or left alone by Obama.  The only way their friends, neighbors, or relatives who happen to be legal citizens can spare them will be to vote for Clinton.  It may have seemed that the Republicans’ standing with immigrant communities had sunk to a new low in 2012, but in 2016, things could actually get worse.” 
  • Washington Post, Chris Cillizza of “The Fix” political blog, “Three Sentences that Will Haunt Republicans on Immigration in 2016” – “Because of the action — or, more accurately, the lack of action — from House Republicans in the year since a comprehensive bill passed the Senate, it is now more likely that the occupant of the White House after that election will be a Democrat.  Don’t take my word for it.  Here again, the Republican autopsy report…At the moment, Republicans are best known among Latinos for a lack of solutions on immigration.  And that will come back to haunt them in 2016.”
  • NBC News, “First Read” political team, “Why Immigration Reform Died in Congress” – “[N]o reasonable person can say that immigration’s death — in 2013 and 2014 — is anyone’s fault but House Republicans…[T]he longer Republicans wait on passing immigration reform, the longer the wounds with Latino voters will take to heal.  We’ll simply quote from that RNC after-election autopsy report from March 2013: ‘[W]e must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.  If we do not, our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.’… Of course, yesterday’s back-and-forth over immigration comes just a week after Boehner announced that the House would vote later this month to authorize a lawsuit against President Obama’s executive actions.  And here is something that shouldn’t be ignored: The White House LOVES the lawsuit.  For one thing, it gives meaning to the White House’s various executive actions.  Earlier this year during the State of the Union, many of us proclaimed them simply playing ‘small ball.’  But given this lawsuit, Republicans certainly don’t see them being small.  In addition, the lawsuit only emphasizes the contrast that one branch of government is doing SOMETHING while the other branch is doing NOTHING.  Bottom line: The White House sees a political opportunity here — an opportunity that Republicans might not have seen coming.”
  • Salon, Heather Digby Parton, “GOP Created a Nativist Monster: How Radical Wingnuts Seized the Party” – “That group of consistently and mostly conservative Republicans who do not believe there should be any path to citizenship are the most active and energized participants in the GOP.  They are backed up by a media machine that will launch into high gear the minute it looks remotely possible that an immigration deal might actually happen…[Pro-reform Republican and conservatives] are all under the thumbs of the radical, revanchist right wing to one degree or another.  And it must also be noted that those other members of the GOP coalition who spent the last 30 years stoking that faction and feeding its hatred have only themselves to blame.  This is their monster.”

“Americans are fed up with Washington politics as usual and hungry for action, even if it’s not perfect.  When it comes to immigration reform, the GOP is its own worst enemy.  House Republicans clearly misread the politics of this issue and thought that inaction was their best option.  Now it seems that President Obama is getting ready to exercise real leadership.  If he does, the GOP will be left eating dust and unable to catch up in 2016,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice.