With the House and Senate holding multiple hearings and gearing up to vote on anti-immigrant legislation this week, it’s clear that Republicans in Congress are following the Donald’s lead.
Instead of calling up comprehensive immigration reform, a solution favored by three quarters of the American people, Republicans in the House and Senate are rushing to take up piecemeal proposals that taint all immigrants as criminals. The legislative push stems from on a tragic, heartbreaking murder sensationalized and exploited by none other than Trump himself.
For a party that should be standing up to its nativist wing in order to survive as a national party capable of winning national elections, this is yet another mistake in a series of missteps that, taken together, add up to an existential threat to the GOP future. Despite the risks, they just can’t seem to help themselves.
Charles Blow, the New York Times columnist, helps connect the dots. Writes Blow:
“The Republican Party has nurtured anti-immigrant, xenophobic nastiness for years, but it has tried to do so, at least at the national level, in language that disguised it as a simple issue of law and order. Trump has blown all that to bits …. But the Republican Party isn’t innocent here. Trump isn’t imposing a poisonous view of Hispanics; he’s voicing it. And he’s voicing it in precisely the blunt and noxious terms that a sizable portion of the party feels it and in which they want to hear it discussed.”
Now, Republicans in Congress are providing the legislative companions to Trump’s “blunt and noxious” vocalizing. GOP leaders, such as Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), are introducing so-called “sanctuary city” legislation that pursue the GOP’s agenda of maximizing deportations. This legislative objective has been knocking around in nativist circles for years. It’s gotten a boost by Trump’s rise and the tragic murder of Kate Steinle.
Yet, these efforts, which focus exclusively on penalizing jurisdictions which have fashioned community policing policies aimed at encouraging immigrants to trust local police so they report crimes and serve as witnesses, may be missing the breakdown that led to the murder. For example, If the Bureau of Prisons had someone in custody that was slated for deportation, why wasn’t he kept in federal custody and deported? Leader Nancy Pelosi and Ranking Immigration Subcommittee member Zoe Lofgren have sent a letter to DHS about just that, and answers from the federal government are needed if we are to make sure a tragic breakdown doesn’t happen again (see the letter from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Immigration Subcommittee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren, as well as this op-ed from David Leopold, for more.)
Moreover, the overzealous legislative proposals from Grassley and others scapegoat an entire community due to the actions of a few. As California DREAMer leaders Luis Ojeda and Deyaneira Garcia explain in an op-ed at The Hill:
“Now that the senators are holding hearings and proposing policies, they are threatening all of our families. And we will not allow that to happen. We will not be your scapegoat.” They add, “In the wake of tragedy, it is always hard to find a way forward. But dividing our communities is never the answer. We need solutions that bring us more closely together as a whole and serve our best interests not our worst fears.”
If Republicans truly wanted to focus enforcement resources on bad guys, they would need to stop opposing Obama’s administrative reforms and work with Democrats to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
A comprehensive approach combines smart enforcement at the border and inside the country, a path to legal status and citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, and improvements to our legal immigration system. This will ensure that undocumented immigrants come forward, pass background checks and become known to the government, which in turn will help authorities prosecute crimes. Immigrants will get into the system and onto the books so that law enforcement can isolate criminals, not immigrant communities. It will greatly reduce the haystack of undocumented immigrants and help expose the needles – the serious criminals – that should be the priority.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Congress has spent the last 25 years passing piecemeal measures, most of which were aimed at maximizing deportations. This led to strategies that did not distinguish between the serious criminals and hardworking families seeking a better life. Obviously, throwing a band aid at a dysfunctional system will not work. The best way to deal with a symptom of a broken system is to fix the broken system.
He added, “The longer the Republican Party’s legislative agenda and brand image are defined and dictated by Trump and his allies in Congress, the longer the nation will have to wait for a solution that is long overdue, and the harder it will be for the GOP to remain a viable national party.”