Leave it to House Republicans to find a way to both enrage their base and alienate an entire voting bloc all in a single afternoon.
And you thought you had a bad day at work.
Today, House Republicans announced that they had taken the first steps in dealing with our nation’s broken immigration system by bringing forth a broad set of principles relating to immigration reform. These principles will serve as a foundation going forward and they will be further discussed in June after the primary season for those Republican congressmen up for re-election. Ultimately, these principles could serve as the foundation for a House-backed immigration reform bill that would be voted on down the road as an alternative to the immigration bill already passed in the Senate.
So how exactly does the Republican Party intend to write up an immigration bill when a good portion of its members have an unfavorable view of immigrants? Herein lies the problem, and it is a problem that should absolutely delight Democrats.
The principles listed pinpoint several key issues that are necessary to address in order to achieve some semblance of immigration reform. These issues included enhanced border security, an entry-exit visa tracking system, employment verification and workplace enforcement, and a temporary worker program to keep bright minds in the United States, especially in highly-skilled fields. However, the major, overarching issue is what is to be done with the 11 million undocumented citizens already living in this country. With the principles outlined by the Republican Party, those undocumented immigrants are split into two groups: children and adults. Those children that were brought here illegally, referred to as the DREAMers, would have the option to eventually become citizens. For those adults that came here illegally, the document reads as follows:
“There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws — that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law. Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits).”
How this passage will become a bill is a major issue going forward. What does a person have to do to admit his culpability? Pay a fine? Serve time in jail? What government agency does the background checks? Where will the funding for all this come from? What does English and American proficiency entail? Is it simply a version of the American citizenship test? Or is there some other way to prove proficiency? Does the party of smaller government really want to create a system where the government is involved in a massive program to track down the backgrounds and determine the proficiency of 11 million people?
In addition to those questions, there must be compromise between these principles and the immigration bill that passed the Senate with 68 votes, despite the fact that some Senate Republicans actually felt that the bill was too long and therefore should not have been voted on. The big issue is obviously concerns what to do with the adult population of undocumented immigrants. The Senate immigration bill acknowledges a path for permanent residence for undocumented immigrations after falling into the end of the line behind legal immigrants applying for residence. In essence, the Senate immigration bill gives them an opportunity for every Republican’s favorite a-word, wait for it, amnesty. Yes, the bill does exactly what Ronald Reagan did: It gives amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the country.
The problem for House Republicans is now they have opened a Pandora’s box of immigration. Their views are out in the open for all of America to see. They know they have to act on the immigration issue or else they risk losing even more of the latino vote, which as it stands, remains overwhelming Democratic. They also know that there are those who will not even consider any kind of bill that allows anything at all that even remotely looks like amnesty for undocumented immigrants. In the coming months we should expect to see open civil war among the pro and anti-immigration wings of the party. If there is one issue (among many) where we see extreme views within the Republican Party and its talking heads, it is that of immigration. We will both see and hear some breathtaking soundbites from people like congressman Steve King, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and others in the coming months. There is no way to hide the party’s xenophobia when it comes time for a policy discussion about people who don’t look like the typical Fox News viewer.
Grab your popcorn, folks. It’s about to get real entertaining.