House Republicans in marginal "purple" districts who support immigration reform could end up paying the price for their leadership’s decision to resist passing legislation in 2014.
Proponents of the overhaul are livid that less than a week after announcing a set of immigration "principles," the House GOP decided it will not move forward this year on immigration reform. House Republicans say they are holding out until President Barack Obama repairs a trust deficit between them. But advocates dismissed that as a “lame” excuse and said their goal is to get a new Congress that can pass an immigration reform bill. They say that because Republicans are blocking its progress, none of them will be spared the consequences -- regardless of where they stand on the issue.
“No Republican is safe,” Kica Matos, director for Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Campaign for Community Change, declared during a telephone press conference organized by Fair Immigration Reform Movement, a national coalition of grassroots organizations lobbying for immigrants’ right at all levels of government. “We are delivering a very clear message to the Republican Party at large, and that is they better move on reform and they better move on it now. As we look at some potential districts that we are going to engage pretty deeply, there are some Republicans that we are looking at in so-called purple districts. So no, nobody is safe.”
“We will be a thorn in your side every single day,” Matos warned. “We will be in your face. Get used to seeing us.”
A handful of House Republicans signed on to H.R. 15, the chamber’s Democrats’ comprehensive immigration reform bill, when it was introduced late last year. But the GOP leadership has shown no appetite for it. It also has ignored an all-inclusive measure Senate Democrats passed last June with the help of some Republicans. When the leadership revealed its one-page list of standards last month, it renewed hope that it was in fact serious about reform that would provide at least some legal status for the estimated 11 million people living in America without immigration papers. But last Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he always knew moving a bill forward this year would be difficult.
“There is widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws, and it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes,” Boehner said. “We’re going to continue to discuss this issue with our members. But I think that the president is going to have to demonstrate to the American people and to my colleagues that he can be trusted to enforce the law as it is written.”
In the Republican principles for immigration reform recently unveiled, there is mention only of legalization for the undocumented, but no special pathway to citizenship. Both Democrats and immigration advocates alike were encouraged about this, because legalization would mean an end to the deportations of undocumented immigrants, which have risen to a record under Obama, with approximately 1,100 a day on average.
“No one in America believes this falsity that immigration reform cannot be moved because the president has not aggressively enforced immigration laws,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA in Action. “Quite the opposite. This president will be responsible for 2 million deportations since he has taken office.”
“[Boehner] made a colossal mistake in choosing to be a follower rather than a leader when he followed his caucus into what he admitted was a suicide mission in shutting down the government,” he added. “He is making the same mistake in following the anti-brown, anti-immigrant extremists of his party down a pathway that blocks immigration reform. Family separation will go down in history as one of the most shameful policies in American history. They will soon find that their legacy has been tarnished for it.”
The irony of this all, said Torres, is that reform is inevitable because of the growing power of the Latino and immigrant vote. Latinos supported Obama in the last election 71 percent; Asian-Americans backed Obama 73 percent in 2012, up from 62 percent.
“The antis are plummeting,” Torres said. “It is inevitable because we have won the debate with the American public.”
According to Frank Sharry of America’s Voice, "it’s now or never for House Republicans. If they don’t act this spring to take floor action, chances are we won’t see reform through legislation until a new president, a new Congress is elected.”