Following introduction of the bipartisan Senate immigration bill the legislative debate kicked in quickly, giving a glimpse into how members from both sides of the aisle are lining up to support or oppose reform. Spurred in large part by historically low levels of support from Latino voters in the 2012 elections, some members of the Republican Party are leading the charge with key Democrats to pass commonsense immigration reform. Unfortunately, some Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee haven’t gotten the memo. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) are working to try to slow down and derail reform that is supported by the vast majority of Americans—including Republicans. However, as evidenced in the Monday Senate Judiciary Committee’s marathon hearing, leaders from across the political spectrum and across the country are working to help Congress pass this landmark, bipartisan legislation. The panoply of support for immigration reform is stronger, broader, and deeper than its opponents.
Below find a recap of this week’s immigration developments in both chambers.
- The strength behind the immigration reform movement continues to grow and diversify. Testimony from a series of pro-immigration witnesses and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at this week’s Senate Judiciary hearings demonstrated that the power and momentum remains squarely on the side of reform. From President of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, to DREAMer Gaby Pacheco, the case for Senate Gang of Eight bill and all of its components was strong and clear, and despite the attempts by some to demagogue the Boston tragedy as a means to halt reform, their efforts were quickly and decisively shot down. Said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), “Let no one be so cruel as to use these heinous acts of two young men last week to derail the dreams and futures of millions of hardworking people.” The growing body of support was further strengthened a diversified this week by a new endorsement from the nation’s oldest environmental group, the Sierra Club, making the prospects for immigration reform that much better.
- However, as diverse leaders and Senate “Gang of Eight” pushes reform process forward, Senate “Gang of Hate” continues to revisit the past. Sen. Grassley and the head of the anti-immigrant “Gang of Hate,” Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), used this week’s Senate Judiciary hearing proceedings to provide a platform for Kris Kobach and Mark Krikorian, both of whom continue to push the discredited and politically toxic concept of “self-deportation.” As a reminder, Kris Kobach was an immigration advisor to Mitt Romney and the man most responsible for the candidate’s infamous embrace of self-deportation in 2012. Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and a former General Counsel of the anti-immigrant group FAIR, was also the architect of the Arizona and Alabama “show me your papers” laws and the lead drafter of the RNC’s Draconian immigration policy platform in 2012. Meanwhile, Mark Krikorian is the head of the anti-immigrant think tank Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and the original “brains” behind the GOP’s embrace of self-deportation.
Despite the fact that Romney’s anti-immigration sentiments contributed to his electoral drubbing from Latino voters, Kobach and Krikorian remain committed to the concept of self-deportation. At this week’s hearing, Kobach not only indicated his preference that DREAMers self-deport, but also claimed, “self-deportation is not some radical idea.” In response, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) noted, ”the voters have the last word. The voters had the last word on self-deportation on November 6th, so we’re beyond that now.”
- As in the Senate, while key House GOP members look forward on immigration, others continue to look back. Despite the ongoing efforts by the House Gang of 8 to complete a comprehensive bipartisan immigration bill, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) announced this week that his committee will introduce a series of piecemeal immigration bills staring with a mandatory E-Verify bill and an expanded guest worker program for agribusiness—both hyper-partisan bills that died in the last Congress. Said Goodlatte, “No one should take the limited bills that we’re introducing here this week to be in any way an indication of our overall interest in solving all of the various aspects of immigration reform that are before the House and the Senate.” To us, this move shows that some House Republicans remain stuck on the ideas and the strategies of the past. At the same time, others like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) recommitted to the cause of broad immigration reform, presenting the security rationale for comprehensive immigration reform outside a forum with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) this week.
- The public in general—and Republican voters specially—remain squarely on the side of reform with citizenship. Among an array of polls demonstrating citizenship’s popularity, a new GOP poll conducted by the Winston Group and sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform, the National Immigration Forum Action Fund and the Partnership for a New American Economy, shows broad support for the Senate Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration bill with 74% support amongst Americans and 67% support amongst Republicans. Additionally, citizenship continues to experience strong support according to this poll, with 79% support amongst Americans and an astounding 85% amongst Republicans. These findings are further highlighted by a new CNN/ORC International poll which finds 84% overall support for citizenship and 78% support amongst Republicans as well as a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll which found that 76% of the public and 73% of republicans back citizenship when broken down into its component parts.
- The pro-reform side is poised to win the debate, but will the Republican Party step up? Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine points to a “must-read report” from the National Review’s Robert Costa, which acknowledges that Republicans who oppose reform are going to use delaying tactics to try to kill it. But Chait argues that the momentum is with immigration reform–and delay imperils Republicans politically, providing an important incentive for pro-reform Republicans to outflank their opposition minority. Writes Chait, “Immigration reform is not like gun control. Gun control popped suddenly onto the national agenda, and nothing about it made Republicans think they had to alter their stance. On immigration, Republicans fretted since the GOP primary that the party was alienating the growing Latino electorate in a way that fundamentally threatened the party’s national competitiveness. There will be a fight within the Republican Party over whether to accept immigration reform, and the fight will take place inside the House of Representatives. But it’s a fight the pro-reform side is likely to win.”
The choice before the GOP is clear: follow the example of the Gang of 8 Republicans, work to pass immigration reform and change your image with Latino voters—or follow the examples of Grassley, Sessions and Goodlatte and walk right over that demographic cliff.
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