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The “Cornyn Con” to Scuttle Immigration Breakthrough Moves to Step Two

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When it comes to immigration, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) is, once again, running the “Cornyn Con.” It’s the same playbook he’s followed in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2018. It goes like this: 

  1. Step one: Cornyn positions himself as a player and a potential dealmaker in bipartisan immigration negotiations;
  2. Step two: Cornyn proposes the outline of a deal and a way forward; this makes him look like he wants to get to yes and attracts positive press attention; but the “offer” is purposefully designed to get Democrats to say no;
  3. Step three: Cornyn declares he’s operating in good faith, but Democrats are being partisan; he makes an ultimatum that unless he gets his way, there will be no progress; 
  4. Step four: Cornyn loudly calls out Democrats; he blames them for “blowing up bipartisanship,” all the while high-fiving with McConnell and Cruz and others in the back room for getting to no and “both-sidesing” the blame game. 

Cornyn just launched Step Two.

Senator Cornyn and his wingman, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) recently sent a new letter to Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL). It calls for immigration legislation to include only those with “active” status under DACA (an estimated 650,000 young immigrants, not the 3 million called for in the Dream and Promise Act passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year). And it calls for an “open amendment process” that would allow proposals regarding “border security, interior enforcement and employment verification.” 

Here’s our translation: See how much we care? Given that most Americans – indeed, most Republican voters – support a path to citizenship for Dreamers, we have to say yes to something. So we’ll offer to protect the smallest group possible – current DACA recipients – but none of the following: Dreamers excluded from DACA by Trump’s attempt to end the program; Dreamers now caught up in growing backlogs at USCIS; Dreamers who either were not made eligible or could not afford the original DACA program; nor TPS holders, farm workers and other essential workers included in Democratic proposals. And in exchange for pretending to want to get to yes, we want an open amendment process on enforcement measures in hopes of subjecting swing-state Democrats up in 2022 to tough votes. 

Cornyn knows that this is an unacceptable opening policy offer, and he tops it with demands for a process that will result in either unacceptable poison pills being added or 30 second attack ads being cut. 

Last month, Senator Cornyn had this to say about legislation to deliver citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders and essential workers: “Radical policies that reward illegal immigration will not pass the Senate, and it’s unfair for the DACA recipients to tie their fate to such ill-considered legislation.” These supposedly “radical” policies are favored by voters 80-12% and by Republican voters 55-36%. 

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

There he goes again. Senator Cornyn has one play, consisting of four steps. This week he’s initiating Step Two of Cornyn Con. He’s not setting up a bipartisan breakthrough, he’s setting up a partisan blame game. 

When he came to town some 17 years ago, he convinced many of us he wanted to get to yes on immigration reform. But then he showed his true colors, again and again and again. Imagine if Cornyn had been sincere and gotten to yes when it counted. Millions of immigrants would be citizens today. Millions of families would be whole. Our nation would be stronger. 

But he never did get to yes, and he won’t get to yes in this Congress. Cornyn and the Republicans don’t want to pass immigration reform this year, they want to run against immigration next year. McConnell, Cornyn and Senate Republicans want one thing above all else: the power to impose the will of their minority on America’s multiracial majority. 

So, Democrats, you have the majority. You’re in charge. Use every tool and every ounce of power to achieve a breakthrough that formally recognizes undocumented immigrants as the Americans they already are. Given the ongoing attacks on our fragile democracy, it might be the last chance to do so.