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House "Magnificent 7" Reform Group Disbands. Is CIR Entirely Dead?. By Roger Algase

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This update is posted on Monday morning, September 23:

My original September 21 post did not mention Greg Sargent's September 20 column in the Washington Post with the cheerful title:

In blow to immigration reform, House 'gang of seven' bill looks dead.

And this was written before the two Texas Republican Congressmen pulled out of this bipartisan group, as described in the Politico report mentioned below.

However, unlike Politico's Seung Min Kim, who attributes the defection of these two former members of what I will call the House's "Magnificent Gang of Seven Bipartisan Samurai" to pressure from a right wing anti-immigrant group in her article, Sargent writes that the real reason for the (anticipated) bust-up of the House group was lack of support by the House GOP leadership.

Or maybe the two Republicans looked on a facebook wall somewhere and saw handwriting resembling that of House GOP leaders John Boehner, Eric Cantor or Bob Goodlatte with the Biblical words Mene mene tekel upharsin ("You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting").

The biggest surprise of all, in my opinion, is that anyone expected a comprehensive reform bill to come out of this group on the first place. The House Republican leadership made clear right from Day 1 that it was against a comprehensive approach and that the Senate CIR bill, S. 744, was DOA in the lower chamber.

If there ever was any sign that this bipartisan group which, we are told, labored mightily for four years, but was unable even to bring forth the proverbial mouse, was anything more than window dressing to divert attention away from House GOP obstruction and inaction on reform this year, that sign was hard to detect.

Perhaps there is a ray of good news in this. Just as the importance of the House's bipartisan immigration reform group was, quite arguably, exaggerated, its demise may be overrated too.

Much of the comment on immigration reform in the House has been swinging back and forth between overoptimism and extreme pessimism. As mentioned below, I have been quite pessimistic too, but maybe we should still listen to the words of Horace, the great Latin poet of 2,000 years ago, mentioned in my original post below:

Non omnis moriar ("I will not entirely die".)

Maybe Greg Sargent has also been reading Horace. Sargent writes that, notwithstanding any breakup in this group:

"This doesn't mean immigration reform is entirely dead".

After all, the powerful House Judiciary Committee led by Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) which has already reported out four immigration bills (including some poison pills) and is said to be working on four more whose content he has not yet revealed.

But then, at the end of his article, Sargent turns away from the spirit of the immortal Roman poet and writes:

"Indeed, it remains very possible that House Republican leaders will simply let reform die..."

The following is my original post of September 21, with a few revisions.

With few exceptions, my posts have been relentlessly pessimistic about the chances for immigration reform passing any time soon in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. My view has been based on the fundamental dynamics of immigration politics, chiefly the GOP's dependence on relatively well off whites for its support.

This is a demographic that only a small minority of immigrants in 21st century America fits into. While it is far from true that all, or even most, white voters are bigoted against racial minorities, enough are, especially in certain parts of the country, for the Republicans to feel the need to cater to prejudice if they want to remain viable as a party.

Don't take my word for this. Just ask Ann Coulter and Michele Bachmann.

At least, this is the calculus that seems to be influencing the great majority of House Republicans, including their leadership. And this is not only true of House Republicans - after all, only 14 Senate Republicans voted to pass that chamber's CIR bill, S. 744.

Despite the courageous efforts of a few forward looking Senate Republicans such as John McCain (AZ) and Lindsey Graham (SC), who are willing to look beyond the next election (or primary), toward demographic reality and the longer term interests of their party - and country - most Republicans are stuck in a mold of appeasing their their intolerant Tea Party base.

(Even though this is beyond the scope of this blog, it is also hard to ignore the Grand Old Party of Rich White Men's recent savage attacks on less well off Americans and immigrants alike in trying to defund the Affordable Care Act, cut food stamps and close abortion clinics on which many minority immigrant and American women depend all over the country. Nor can one ignore the frantic efforts that the Republicans are making in many states to stop Latino, African-American, and less affluent US citizens from voting.)

Therefore, it should not come as any great surprise that, as discussed in Immigration Daily's September 20 editorial, Politico is reporting that two more Republican members of what was originally the House bipartisan "Gang of Eight", and later turned into what I ironically referred to as the "Magnificent Seven" in a recent post, have now quit that group, effectively disbanding it.

Surprise, surprise! Yes, there was some talk about a comprehensive bipartisan House bill being agreed to and introduced (just as there was hope that Godot would eventually show up in the 1950's Samuel Beckett play - there I go dating myself again) but, at least as far as this writer could see, there were not many real signs that the "Seven Samurai" would actually come out with one, since, according to most news reports, only the Democrats in that group showed any real interest.

In her September 20 article House Immigration group loses more Republicans Politico's ace immigration reporter, Seung Min Kim, gives the following reason for the defection from that group of the two Texas House Republicans, John Carter and Sam Johnson.

"Though the Texas Republicans broadly blamed the Obama administration in their public statement, the lawmakers had also faced considerable backlash from the public in the Lone Star state during the August recess, according to a GOP source.

The Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee, a conservative anti-illegal immigration group, had revoked their endorsements of Carter and Johnson according to the Dallas Morning News."

Maybe those anti-immigrant groups that we were led to believe were so quiet during the August recess were not so passive or unengaged after all. Not only did the two GOP Congressman effectively disband the bipartisan group, but, according to the Politico article, they did so with a statement blaming President Obama for not enforcing the immigration laws - something that can only be called obscene, referring to a president who has arguably deported more people than any other chief executive in this nation's history.

Where does this leave the chances for immigration reform in the House now? Is the great Roman poet Horace's line mentioned in my September 20 post: Non omnis moriar ("I will not entirely die") still relevant to CIR?

As Immigration Daily's above editorial (and my own post) pointed out, reform is now in the hands of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). That committee has reported out four immigration bills, and four more of yet unknown content are in the works, according to Goodlatte.

Immigration Daily's editorial cautions House Democrats to be careful about voting against Goodlatte's bills, less they fail to pass the House and Democrats then also become complicit in the final demise of CIR and wind up sharing the blame in the eyes of the public along with the Republicans.

No one can dispute this point. And there are reports that some House Democrats may be willing to compromise with Goodlatte on the Pathway to Citizenship by throwing millions of immigrants who would be eligible for citizenship according the Senate bill under Goodlatte's "citizenship through regular channels only" bus, in order to get some form of legalization (if not citizenship) for as many people as possible through the House.

But what happens if the GOP bills are so loaded with poison pills that the Democrats have no choice but to oppose them?

Suppose, for example, that Goodlatte were to combine a bill granting legalization to some DREAMers, or maybe even a few other unauthorized immigrants, with one giving states back the power to write their own anti-immigrant laws which the Supreme Court (in part) took away from them last year. Such a bill has already been reported out of Goodlatte's committee, as mentioned in a Huffington Post article referred to in my September 20 post.

If a Republican immigration bill gives relief from deportation (and perhaps even a shot at eventual citizenship through "regular channels") to hundreds of thousands, or even a million, people at the price of putting Sheriff Joe Arpaio back in business, how would House Democrats vote?

I would not put it past Bob Goodlatte to offer House Democrats this type of Hobson's choice.


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Updated 09-23-2013 at 04:15 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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