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Immigration Reform in 2014? Optimism vs. (Tea Party) Reality. By Roger Algase

Rating: 9 votes, 5.00 average.


Update, January 1, 2014, 3:18 am:

To kick off the early hours of the New Year, I will comment on another optimistic article, this one in Newsweek, called The New Year Brings New Hope Immigration Will Finally Be Fixed (December 26, 2013 - see also Immigration Daily's editorial, December 31, 2013).

Far be it from me to downplay either our great American tradition of hope or the never-give-up spirit of the immigration reform movement, which, I am convinced as much as anyone else, will ultimately be successful as America becomes more diverse and less controlled by older white men than it is now.

But will 2014 be the year for reform? The great white hope of the optimistic side (pun entirely intended) now seems to be House Bob Goodlatte. Newsweek reports:

"After the speaker, the most important person to watch is Representative Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, head of the House Judiciary Committee, and charged with drafting immigration legislation. Though he spent 2013 shooting down the idea of the House passing a single piece of reform legislation as the Senate did, he recently renewed his pledge to pass a series of smaller immigration bills in 2014.

Calling the issue a 'top priority' for the coming year, Goodlatte promised that his approach would go beyond Republican hobby horses like border security to a possible deal over legal status for the 12 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States."


Certainly, this is a more optimistic assessment of Goodlatte's intentions than the comment by Fernando Espuelas in the Huffington Post three months ago that:

"Even GOP Rep.Bob Goodlatte's efforts to fig leaf the tea party's blockage of immigration reform with so-called "piecemeal" bills will fail. That strategy assumes that voters are too stupid to know the game - they're not."

(See GOP's High Risk Election Gamble: Blocking Immigration Reform, September 29, 2013).

But even assuming Goodlatte's Good Intentions, there is an elephant in the room that the optimists seem to have a problem noticing.

The Newsweek article says, concerning any House Republicans who might be willing to support a deal involving legal status (with or without a pathway to citizenship) for 12 million people:

"...but they will have to fly in the face of harsh criticism from the conservative GOP base if they are willing to pass multiple bills".

Will Bob Goodlatte and the other House Republican leaders have the courage to take on the intolerant Tea Party Neanderthals in their own base in the 2014 election year that these same leaders lacked in 2013? That remains to be seen.

Update, December 29, 6:17 am:

The main factor that Tamar Jacoby, in her CNN article discussed below, and other diehard immigration reform optimists are overlooking is the existence of a certain organization known as the Tea Party. It would be nice to pretend that the Tea Party doesn't exist, or that it has no influence among Congressional Republicans.

But this would be to close one's eyes to reality. The Tea Party was successful in killing CIR in the House in 2013, and it has no intention of relaxing its opposition to immigration reform in 2014.

Anyone who doubts this can read the latest announcement by a Tea Party supporting group called ALIPAC (Americans for Legal Immigration PAC) in a December 28 article with the title: Tea Party 2014 Targets Identified by Support for Obama's Immigration Reform Amnesty, appearing on an Internet site called US Daily Review. The link is:

usdailyreview.com/tea-party-2014-targets-identified-by-support-for-obamas-immigration-reform-amnesty/

The article quotes ALIPAC's president, William Gheen, as follows:

"The GOP sellouts in Washington supporting Obama's amnesty for illegal aliens need to be targeted and replaced replaced by truly conservative groups in 2014!...Speaker John Boehner has told big business groups he plans to pass amnesty for Obama right after the filing closes so it is very important these thirty to forty GOP incumbents face primary challengers who oppose immigration reform amnesty!"


The above may seem obscure and mysterious to the "what, me worry?" band of optimists who are upbeat about the chances for immigration reform this coming year. But we can be sure that it is quite clear to any Republicans in Congress up for re-election who may actually be planning to support reform.

ALIPAC has also published a list of Senators and Representatives whom it intends to "primary" in 2014 for apparently daring to suggest that even some tentative or "piecemeal" reform proposals might be worth considering.

The list includes not only Boehner himself and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), but also House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R- VA), former VP candidate Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Raul Labrador (R-ID), none of whom, to put it mildly, is exactly a pro-CIR firebrand. All of these Congressmen, as well many others on the ALIPAC hit list, have been doing everything imaginable to grovel before the Tea Party by emphasizing their commitment to "enforcement first" and opposition to anything even remotely resembling the Senate CIR bill.

But it seems that even mentioning the word "reform" will be enough to bring down the wrath of the Tea Party in the form of primary challenges. How this can set the stage for any kind of "compromise" on reform in 2014 is a mystery.

The only comfort one can take is that if the Tea party is so furious with 30-40 Congressional Republicans up for re-election this year, maybe these representatives are doing something right with regard to immigration reform. It would be more reassuring, however, if we knew exactly what it is that they are doing right.

My original post follows (with one or two small revisions at the end):

As might be expected, both the optimists and the realists are out in full force with their respective views on the chances for immigration reform in 2014. No one can state the optimists' case more eloquently than Tamar Jacoby, well known immigration advocate and currently president of the pro-reform organization Immigration Works.

Jacoby predicted last summer in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that the House Republican "piecemeal" immigration bills, put together, would add up, like individual beads, to a "necklace" of reform. My comment at the time was that these proposals might turn out to be more like a noose.

So far, Jacoby's prediction has yet to materialize, but hope springs eternal, and one has to admire her determination never to give up on reform, a sentiment with which I whole-heartedly agree. But does this mean that there is a realistic chance for reform in 2014?

Jacoby argues that there is a chance for reform in this coming election year, despite all the setbacks and disappointments of 2013, or perhaps even because of them. Her latest article, dated December 26, appears on CNN Opinion under the title: Big surprise ahead in 2014.

www.cnn.com/2013/12/26/opinion/jacoby-immigration-2014

Her reasons to be guardedly optimistic about the chances for reform in this coming year can be summed up as follows:

1) 2013 showed that momentum is building in favor of reform. True enough, but momentum has been building in favor for reform for quite some time. It has not yet been enough to put reform over the finish line.

2) The GOP is finally beginning to see the light on reform in the wake of the 2012 election. This is also true to some extent, but try telling that to Heritage Action, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) or the Tea Party House Republican caucus. And try telling it to the Republican House members running for re-election this coming year in gerrymandered whites-only red state districts.

3) House GOP leaders, including Paul Ryan, are speaking out in favor of reform. But Ryan's latest remarks are straight down the enforcement first, if not the enforcement only, line, as I pointed out in a recent post. And as for comments by other House GOP leaders whom Jacoby mentions, such as John Boehner and Eric Cantor, does anyone still pay attention to their doubletalk on immigration?

4) Some Republican House lawmakers are said to be working on bills that could grant legal status to DREAMERS, and possibly even the parents of DREAMERS. But even if this is true (and no one has yet seen the bills or knows when we will see them, if ever) this is still a far cry from legalization for 11 million people. And look at some of the other, enforcement-heavy bills that House Republicans are also rumored to be working on. OY!

5) The latest budget deal showed that the Congressional "logjam" which has been preventing compromise on anything may be breaking up. Compromise may therefore now also be possible on reform. Wouldn't that be nice?

One cannot avoid the impression that there is a great deal of wishful thinking and grasping at straws in the above analysis. Even Jacoby herself does not seem to be too confident about her own rhetoric, as in her following passage:

"Some caveats: House leadership is not going to pass immigration reform over the heads of conservative Republicans. It will pass it only with them - with their support."

But how will the support of people like Steve King, who calls DREAMERS "drug mules" and his fellow Tea Party bigots in the House be gained? Jacoby suggests that all the Democrats have to do is cave in on the pathway to citizenship and there might be a deal. But she should know better.

The opposition to reform is not primarily about citizenship. It is about deportation, which the Tea Party Republicans still have as their ultimate goal for 11 million Latino and other minority men, women and children in the US without legal status. Until the GOP hard liners give up on their "enforcement only", "no amnesty" fantasies of mass deportation, as well as their opposition to "chain migration", i.e. people of color coming to the US legally, reform will remain only an empty dream.

Is any change of heart among right wing Republicans likely in the 2014 election year? On this point, maybe we should listen to the realists, as in a December 27 CNBC article entitled: DC 2014: Cold shoulder likely for hot-button issues.

www.cnbc.com/id/101298605/print

The article states:

"House Republicans won't address immigration reform because of midterm elections next year, Capital Alpha Partners Managing Director Chuck Gabriel told CNBC on 'Squawk Box.' They also want the White house to commit to an immigration enforcement policy before they'd consider Democratic proposals, he said.

'It really is a nonstarter', Gabriel said. 'largely because House Republicans are looking at re-election in carefully crafted red- state Republican districts, and this doesn't buy them anything.''
"

This is the choice - rose colored glasses or reality in 2014. My take is that the best chance for immigration reform is to face reality and move forward from there.

The best way to do this is to mobilize Latino and other minority voters to make sure that the Senate stays Democratic next year and that fewer House Republicans return to Washington after the 2014 election. This will not be an easy task. especially if President Obama keeps on deporting Latino immigrants in record numbers and at break-neck speed.

In addition to Obama's utterly misguided belief that deporting nearly 2 million (and counting) non-white immigrants in only five years is somehow going to gain him enough "trust" among Republicans (another totally fake issue) to get reform passed, the media's focus on the ACA and the initial problems with its website (which appear to be getting fixed expeditiously) is decidedly unhelpful to immigration reform.

The biased and trivialized media coverage over the website issue is diverting attention away from immigration and giving the president a negative image for the one accomplishment that he actually achieved during his first term to try to better the lives of 40 million people, many of whom, like immigrants, do not belong to the white majority.

The recent polls show Obama and the Democrats losing substantial support because of the healthcare issue. Unless the media start to get their priorities right and get back to focusing on the much more important issue of immigration reform, the Republicans could retake the Senate and increase their majority in the House in 2014. They might even win the presidency in 2016. This could set reform back for another generation.

If President Obama had both wisdom and courage, he could act on the eminently reasonable assumption that the Republicans are not going to pass immigration reform in 2014, and he could concentrate on using his executive powers to grant relief from deportation to millions more immigrants.

This would put reform back on the front burner. It would also make next year's election a referendum about the president's actions in favor of reform vs. the GOP's support of more repression and persecution against non-white immigrants.

If the American public sees that as the overriding issue next November, how can the Democrats possibly lose? In contrast, the GOP might indeed finally be on its way to extinction. That would be a reality-based approach to immigration reform in 2014.

And reality is the only hope for immigration reform. Reform will never come about through wishful thinking and rose-colored glasses, but will only happen as the result of clear vision, hard-nosed acceptance of the political facts of life, and courageous action to confront the Tea Party's agenda of hate head on. How much of this can we expect from the president and other Democratic leaders in the coming year?



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Updated 01-01-2014 at 02:19 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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Comments

  1. Jack2's Avatar
    "he could concentrate on using his executive powers to grant relief from deportation to millions more immigrants."

    On halting deportations, Obama said, "the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws.? There's no way he is going to do something which he just said is illegal, right?
  2. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Jack2, thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my comments. You raise an important question.

    If you are seriously interested in learning about how broad executive power over immigration actually is under the law, a good place to start would be by reading Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in Arizona v. US (2012).

    There have also been some excellent scholarly studies on this important and very complex issue.

    No one who knows anything about this subject takes any statement by Obama denying that he has power to halt many more deportations than he is doing now seriously.

    If he does not have such power, why hasn't any court tried to stop his DACA initiative or other actions he has already taken to grant relief to certain classes of immigrants?

    Obama is now pretending not to have power that he has already used to limit deportations for purely political reasons. He himself is too intelligent and knows too much about the law to take his own statements seriously. Good luck with your continuing legal research into this issue. I wish you well

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
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