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The Tea Party's Threat to Immigration, and Obama's Weakness. By Roger Algase

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

Update, 9:25 pm, October 12


The media are now reporting that the two Senate leaders, Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell, (R-KY), are trying to negotiate a way out of the government shutdown and debt ceiling crises. There may be bumps along the way, but at least it is reassuring that two grownups are in the room, neither of whom wants to blow up the government or the economy for ideological reasons.

But, as I mentioned in my last update, suppose they reach a deal and it gets through the Senate, just as CIR did based on the bipartisan Gang of Eight negotiations (which now seem like such ancient history).

Will the Tea Party supporters in the House also declare a deal to reopen the government and avoid a debt default catastrophe Dead on Arrival when it gets to that chamber? Having said the above, I don't want to overdo the comparison between CIR and the current shutdown/default crisis. There is a difference.

CIR's problems stem mainly from right wing Republican racism. while the debt ceiling/government shutdown debacle is the result of right wing Republican class warfare - against middle-class and less well-off Americans, not only immigrants. But immigrants are especially at risk if the government stays shut down and the economy tanks for a variety of reasons, as I will discuss in more detail in a forthcoming post.

Update, 2:20 pm, October 12:

The Washington Post and Politico both report that President Obama and the House GOP leaders are no longer talking about resolving the shutdown/debt ceiling crisis, and that Senate Democrats are rejecting the more "reasonable", but still extortionate demands to make changes in the ACA and budget proposed by "cooler heads" among Senate Republicans.

But even if moderate Republicans in the Senate were able to reach a deal with the Democrats to reopen the government and avert a possible financial catastrophe by raising the debt ceiling for a few months, what chance would such a deal have in the Tea Party - dominated House?

In June, 2013 both parties were able to come to agreement in the Senate (which could well be called the "Sane-ate") and pass an imperfect, but still reasonable, CIR bill. Look what happened to it when it reached the Loony House.

More and more, the fate of immigration reform is turning out to be a template for what is now happening on a larger scale, and is already causing hardship and suffering to millions of Americans as well as immigrants, and according to many reputable economists, could lead to the beginning of the worst financial disaster in history only a few days from now.

If immigration supporters, the media and the public in general, had been more willing to call the Tea Party-controlled House Republicans out for their bigoted disregard of the wishes of the great majority of the American people for immigration reform; if President Obama had drawn a line in the sand on reform by suspending all deportations, not just those for DREAMER's, the moment that the House leadership proclaimed CIR "Dead on Arrival" this past summer, then the Tea Party might not be expecting him to cave in at the last minute on the debt ceiling and reopening the government now.

But the president, by going ahead with business as usual on deportations for non-DREAMER's, and, to be honest, even many immigration supporters (not to mention most of the media), by giving the House GOP the benefit of the doubt even as it was strangling immigration reform "piecemeal", allowed the Tea Party's cancer of obstruction and intransigence to grow. Soon all of America, and the entire world, may be feeling the effects.


Update, 8:38 am, October 11:

The Washington Post reports (No deal, but signs of progress after Obama, GOP, talk, October 10) that House Republicans have offered the president a six-week raise in the debt ceiling without ending the government shutdown.
In contrast, Senate Republicans are reportedly considering a proposal that would raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government both for three months. The Senate proposal, if there is one, may have a few germs of willingness to talk in good faith, but the House proposal is nothing more than an insult to Obama and the American people. It is continued hostage-taking, as fears of a financial collapse and suffering on the part of ordinary people from the shutdown continue to spread.

The House leaders and their Tea Party masters apparently believe that Obama is a weak president and can be rolled if they continue their obstruction long enough. If one focuses only on immigration, as this blog does, they have ample justification for this conclusion.

Otherwise, why would the president have gone overboard during the past nearly five years to carry out the far right wing agenda of deporting as many people as possible? Why is the administration still arresting and trying to deport people without letup, held back only by shutdown-caused Immigration Court backlogs, while the Labor Department's PERM and H-1B LCA systems, without which many skilled immigrants will not be able to extend their stays or apply for green cards, are closed for the duration of the shutdown?

If Obama were a strong president, he would say to the Republicans: "OK, I cannot stop you from having your shutdown, but don't expect me to carry out your deportation agenda while the shutdown lasts."

He would also have told that House GOP Neanderthals who have been presiding over the slow death of immigration reform all summer and fall that not one single immigrant (other than someone who presents a clear danger to society) will be arrested or deported until a clean CIR bill, without any enforcement-only gimmicks or poison pills, passes the House and reaches his desk.

By failing to use his executive power over immigration to fight against Tea Party's intransigence, President Obama has signaled his weakness on other issues as well. Now, not only immigrants, but millions of Americans who are affected by the shutdown and will have good reason to fear a financial meltdown if House Republicans continue to play games with the debt ceiling are paying the price.

Update: 5:30 pm, October 10:

Politico reports at about 4:00 pm on Thursday, October 10, that there is "actual movement" in Congress toward resolving the debt ceiling and shutdown crises. According to Politico, cooler heads among Senate Republicans, especially Susan Collins, a moderate from Maine and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) are stepping in with more reasonable proposals which would defuse the twin crises without giving into Tea Party extortion and its attempts to overturn the Constitutional principle of majority rule in America upon which our immigration system, and our democracy, depend. Stay tuned!

My original post follows:

No one will dispute that immigration reform is still alive or that the overwhelming majority of the American people want to allow 11 million immigrants to come out of the shadows of fear and hopelessness in order to become full members of society. Immigration supporters are still trying to put pressure on the House to pass a CIR bill, and courageous liberal Congressmen are willing to be arrested in support of immigrant rights.

But, important as these developments are, they are only sidelines compared to the most significant immigration-related story of all. If we really want to know what the future of immigration reform, and even immigration as we know it today will be, we have to look to what is going on with the government shutdown and the fight over the debt ceiling.
As goes the Affordable Health Care Act, so will go immigration in America.

If a determined far right wing group such as Heritage Action, financed by the Koch brothers (to the tune of $500,000, according to the Washington Post article mentioned below) and other wealthy donors whose names the Supreme Court has allowed organizations like Heritage to keep secret, has the power to nullify a duly enacted law of Congress such as the ACA by going outside the Constitution to engage in political extortion, what would stop it from nullifying CIR in the same way if reform ever passes?

There is no question that Heritage, and the Tea Party which Heritage supports with its abundant cash, detest the ACA. Why the wealthy white men who form the base of these and other similar right wing extremist organizations are so desperate to deny health care coverage to 30 million less affluent Americans and legal immigrants, many of whom are not white, is beyond the scope of this blog, and I will not engage in speculation about this issue except to make one comment as an aside:

ACA opponents are now chortling about the computer system fiasco which was apparently responsible for shutting down its website. For those of us in the immigration community who have have to deal with past headaches with the DOL's H-1B LCA system, or with the DOS's notorious DS-160 visa application software, the ACA's computer system breakdown should come as no surprise.

The obvious solution would be to open up the H-1B system so that the best IT professionals from India and every part of the world would be available to fix the problem. This is not to say that America has no qualified people in this field. But what would have been wrong with getting the most highly qualified help from outside in order to protect against this type of technical problem, which must have been anticipated?

No such chance of course, because not only are the H-1B visas for this new fiscal year 2014 long since used up, but the entire H-1B system is now inoperative because of the DOL shutdown, since no LCA's can be filed or certified.

This leads to the other favorite bugaboo of the Tea Party and its Heritage Action supporters - immigration in all its forms. Heritage Action is now hogging the headlines because of the outsized power that its 31 year-old chief executive, Michael Needham, has to shut down the government and possibly cause a world-wide financial meltdown. See Dana Millbank's October 9 Washington Post story: The shutdown's enforcer in chief.

www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dana-millbank-the-shutdowns-enforcer-in-chief-/2013/10/09/0b86d924-312d-11e3-89ae-16e186e117d8_story.html

The stunning arrogance of a single right wing zealot who, with some justification, thinks that he has the entire US government under his thumb, if not the world's economy, makes chilling reading.

But it is only a few months since another Heritage campaign, namely to nip CIR in the bud by publishing a mendacious study claiming that legalization would cost the economy $5 trillion, almost succeeded. It only failed because one of its authors turned out to be a dyed-in the wool racist with a Harvard Ph.D who believed that Latinos are genetically inferior to whites.

If right wing extremist groups such as Heritage Action and the Tea Party succeed in nullifying America's democracy by forcing the President to back down on the ACA, or on other issues that these organizations' rich donors are interested in, through extra-Constitutional means, what would stop them from doing the same thing to CIR if it ever passes? What would stop them from defunding or forcing the government to delay implementing a hypothetical CIR law, or even to adopt the entire harsh right wing extremist anti-immigrant agenda - state and local immigration enforcement - criminalizing all immigration violations - eliminating birthright citizenship for all US-born children - as the price of keeping the government open or allowing it to pay its bills?

This is why anyone concerned about immigration reform, and the entire future of immigration in America, should be following the news about the Tea Party's government shutdown and its attempt to wreck both America's economy and democracy by throwing the country over the cliff into default with a very high degree of concern.

As a final note, if, as most knowledgeable and responsible economic experts are urgently warning, the US economy goes into a depression because of a Tea Party caused federal government debt default, guess who will be made the inevitable scapegoats? They will not be Heritage Action's anonymous wealthy white donors, we can be sure.

What will happen to immigration reform, and even immigration as we know it now, in that case?



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Updated 10-12-2013 at 08:45 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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Comments

  1. Lynn Atherton Bloxham's Avatar
    I am concerned about one remark you made. I want more than Immigration Reform, eventually I want Open Borders so please do not think I agree with the Heritage Foundation.
    I am not certain, but seriously doubt that Heritage receives money from the Kochs. They are pro immigration and even pro Gay rights. Were you aware of this?
    My sources closer to the Kochs say, no, Heritage is not receiving funds from them..Of course no one knows for sure except their people.

    There are more libertarian leaning organizations who are at least for Immigration Reform who do get some funds from them. The Cato Institute, who has consistently been pro immigration, though personal differences caused a split between them and Kocks, nevertheless was much more to their liking than Heritage ever was. Just thought you might want to know in the interests of accuracy. Libertarian Organizations such as Future of Freedom Foundation, The Independent Institute and the LP Platform are decidedly pro immigration. Libertarians are not conservatives though we agree (barely) on some economic issues.
  2. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I agree that it may not make sense for the reputedly pro-immigration Koch brothers to contribute to an anti-immigrant group such as Heritage, but according to Dana Millbank's article in the Washington Post which I mention in my post, that is exactly what they have in fact done.

    Millbank's article states that the Koch brothers have contributed $500,000 to Heritage Action. Granted, that may be just small change for them.

    Roger Algase
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