Ominous signals that capitulation is on the horizon.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) seems determined to undo the political advantage the GOP has gained from the disastrous implementation of ObamaCare. According to the New York Times, Boehner “has signaled he may embrace a series of limited changes to the nation’s immigration laws in the coming months,” bringing up a series of bills to advance that agenda. Apparently Boehner is holding firm to the belief that the need for some kind of “reform” outweighs the risks of alienating his core constituency.
According to the Boehner’s aides, the Speaker is considering a “step by step” process, though they did not identify these steps in specificity. The Times, no doubt in an effort to be “helpful,” suggested that such an agenda might include fast-tracking legalization for agricultural workers, increasing the number of visas for high-tech workers, or embracing citizenship for young illegals whose parents brought them across the border.
Unsurprisingly, gaining control of the border failed to make the list.
Immigration activists were ostensibly buoyed by two recent indications that Boehner is becoming more attuned to their concerns. First, in an effort to push what he called a “common sense” overhaul of the system, Boehner hired Rebecca Tallent. Tallent is a former staffer for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and former House member James Kolbe, a Republican who represented Arizona’s 8th congressional district. Tallent is a pro-amnesty advocate who has been involved in the creation of broad legalization bills for McCain and Kolbe over the last decade. “Tallent’s hiring suggests [Boehner] really does still want to push an amnesty through the House, which to me suggests that the immigration hawks still have their work cut out for them,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “She is a professional amnesty advocate.”
Boehner’s aides claim she was brought in to represent his views and not her own. Reform advocates paint a far more realistic picture of the hire, contending that there was no reason to hire Tallent unless Boehner was prepared to address the issue.
Boehner’s aides noted that he remains opposed to the so-called “Gang of Eight”-sponsored Senate bill that sailed through that chamber on a bipartisan vote of 68-32 last June. “The American people are skeptical of big, comprehensive bills, and frankly, they should be,” Mr. Boehner told reporters last month. “The only way to make sure immigration reform works this time is to address these complicated issues one step at a time. I think doing so will give the American people confidence that we’re dealing with these issues in a thoughtful way and a deliberative way.”
However, the coordinated pressure of immigration activists and their allies casts doubt on the possibility of addressing immigration issues in a thoughtful or deliberative way. Activists who participated in acts of civil disobedience late last year to further their agenda are planning new demonstrations for Washington, D.C. and other cities in 2014. Business groups, including tech companies from Silicon Valley and the Chamber of Commerce will be initiating new lobbying campaigns. Faith, immigrant rights, and labor organizations who launched the Fast For Familes campaign late last year have promised to ramp up the pressure as well.
The strategy behind the push is to get the legislative ball rolling in the House sometime in May or June, after Republicans running in 2014 have finished their primary campaigns. After that, the hope is that some sort of bill will reach President Obama’s desk before the 2014 election campaign gets in full gear. “That’s our first window,” said Jim Wallis, the president of Sojourners, a Christian social justice organization in favor of Amnesty. “We are organizing, mobilizing, getting ready here. I do really think that we have a real chance at this in the first half of the year.”
If that strategy fails, activists envision another effort during the lame-duck session of Congress following the election. That would represent their last chance for using parts of the Senate bill as the basis for any compromise, because it expires at the end of this year. Thus, much like 2013, they are emphasizing the urgency of getting something done, sooner rather than later.
In the Times’ telling of things, some sort of immigration reform is necessary to make the Republican Party palatable for Hispanics, who are “crucial to the party’s fortunes in the 2016 presidential election.” Leaving aside for the moment the absurd notion that anyone on the left, much less the New York Times, has any interest in helping the GOP enhance its fortunes, reality also reveals otherwise. In every presidential election going back to 1980, Hispanics have overwhelmingly favored the Democratic Party by an average margin of 64-31 percent.
That includes the 1988 election when George G.W. Bush beat Democrat contender Michael Dukakis in a 41 state vs. 9 state blow out. Duakais garnered 69 percent of the Hispanic vote to Bush’s 30 percent in the first presidential election following the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that granted outright amnesty to 2.7 million illegal aliens. Because the two other critical provisions of that bill, namely a crackdown on businesses that hire illegals and enhancing border security, were virtually ignored, America now faces the prospect of more than four times that number of illegals – assuming the much-touted, but unverifiable number of 11 million is accurate – demanding amnesty.
The idea that Hispanics will eventually embrace conservative values is equally absurd. A 2012 survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center reveals that while only a 41 percent minority of Americans in general favor bigger government and more social services, a full 75 percent of Hispanics embrace that fundamental pillar of the American left. And while that percentage decreases among Hispanics who have been here longer, it still remains at 58 percent for those who have been here for three generations or more. Assuming current trends continue, Republicans might squeak out a bare majority of the Hispanic vote in time for the presidential election of 2036.
Immigration reform advocates, who endured their last defeat on the issue in 2006, insist the public embraces a different attitude on the subject eight years later. Again, a Pew poll reveals that Americans remain largely wedded to the ideas contained in the 1986 bill, with 85 percent believing employers should have to verify the legality of all new hires, and 68 percent favoring increased security measures and enforcement at U.S. borders. And while 72 percent of Americans support allowing illegals to remain in the country, they do so only after certain requirements, such as paying back taxes, learning English, and passing background checks, are met first. Furthermore, despite that approval, more than half of those polled remain opposed granting citizenship to illegals.
A Gallup poll taken after the 2012 election confirms that opposition. Only 37 percent of Americans favor a pathway to citizenship, and 62 percent want illegal immigration halted completely. Yet the party breakdown of the numbers is far more significant. Forty-nine percent of Democrats favor a pathway to citizenship, compared to only 25 percent of Republicans. Eight-two percent of Republicans want to prioritize stopping the flow of illegals, versus only 48 percent of Democrats.
In other words, unless the first thing out of the legislative box has something to do with stopping the flow of illegals and eschewing anything regarding a pathway to citizenship, Republicans are virtually certain to alienate a substantial portion of their core constituency if they go along with the Left on immigration.
An unnamed top Republican aide contends that won’t happen. “They won’t try to push through something that conservatives can’t live with,” the aide told the Times. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), a member of the Judiciary Committee, reflected the essence of conservative opposition. He characterized a pathway to citizenship as “unfair to the millions of people who are trying to come to this country and follow the rules as they are,” further insisting that Republicans shouldn’t get “stampeded into something that’s not good for the country.” Chabot supports Hispanic outreach. “But I don’t think the immigration bill itself is something that’s going to accomplish that,” he contends.
Roy Beck, CEO and founder of NumbersUSA was blunt regarding the GOP’s motivation for reform, insisting Boehner is beholden to large campaign donors. “He wants it, Number 1, to give the tech contributors what they want on tech visas and, Number 2, to give the ag lobbyists what they want on farmworker visas,” Beck said. “He also is heavily influenced by the Republican National Committee consultants who just want to get the issue off the table.”
Yet the issue is only on the table if Boehner puts it there. Republicans have a party retreat scheduled later this month and immigration reform will undoubtedly come up. They might want to consider two realities as part of the discussion. First, it takes a remarkable level of political tone-deafness to begin dealing with an issue that is not only inimical to the interests of their base, but one that is contentious enough to take the focus off the debacle of ObamaCare wholly owned by Democrats. A party with visions of holding the House and taking the Senate might be wise to remember that one of the primary reasons Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election was because a huge portion of the electorate stayed home, due in large part to their belief that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two political parties. Republicans embracing anything other than a hard stance on reform would exacerbate that reality. If they do, it isn’t hard to envision a low-turnout election that maintains the current status quo.
Second, as long as an Obama administration with a track record of selective and capricious law enforcement capabilities remains in power, who’s to say what part of any new law won’t receive the same treatment? As Breitbart News revealed last October, Shawn Moran, Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council, insisted that Border Patrol agents were being ordered to stand down and allow illegal aliens, human traffickers and drug cartel members, to cross the border. Budget cuts were the ostensible reason for the order, but Moran noted the Border Patrol “has a larger budget than ever,” but it has “not trickled down to the men and women with their boots on the ground.” Obama also unilaterally authorized his own version of the DREAM Act a year earlier.
If that’s still not enough for the GOP, they should consider one more reality. A Gallup poll released last May asked Americans what the most pressing priorities of the nation are. Of the twelve separate categories, reforming immigration finished dead last. Creating jobs and growing the economy finished one and two. In light of a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) report released last June, predicting the Senate immigration bill would drive down wages and make it harder for Americans to find jobs – not to mention a Heritage Foundation report asserting reform would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion in new spending on entitlements and social programs over a 50 year period – Republicans might want to reorder their own priorities. A viable opposition party is a terrible thing to waste.
Originally published at FrontPage Magazine.