Dumb and dumber. That's the best way to describe two bills passed by House Republicans on Friday night. They passed a supplemental funding bill allocating about $700 million for the crisis on the border. It includes changes to current law that will make it easier to send child migrants back to Central America. They also voted to wind down the Obama administration's Deferred Action program for young immigrants. So forget about comprehensive reform: House Republicans have settled on the "Let's deport as many kids as possible" approach.
These two bills do not represent a coherent response to our border crisis. They reflect House Speaker John Boehner's failed leadership as well as the triumph of immigration extremists. While these bills will have zero policy impact, the GOP will likely feel their political impact for years to come -- and not in a good way.
To understand why these bills passed, let's back up for a moment. Recall that Speaker Boehner originally wanted to vote on a border crisis bill on Thursday. But he couldn't round up enough votes, and the bill was pulled. This was a major embarrassment for the Speaker. Amazingly, Boehner then suggested that President Obama should take executive action on immigration. "There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action," he said in a statement, "to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries."
Huh? Right now the House is suing the president for taking executive action. For the Speaker to suggest that President Obama act on his own on immigration is inconsistent and hypocritical (Does that mean he will support the president's expected executive action on immigration?).
As it turned out, in order to get the votes for a border bill Boehner allowed a vote on a bill that would end the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program. Introduced by the Obama administration in 2012, DACA grants relief from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children. About half a million of these young people, also known as Dreamers, have so far qualified for its protection.
In case you're wondering, DACA has nothing to do with the crisis on the border. Although some Republicans have surmised that it caused the ongoing influx of child migrants, there is no evidence to support this claim.
Now Boehner can say that House Republicans did something on immigration before they left for the August recess. Yet this is a hollow victory, because these bills are going nowhere. The Senate would never approve them and even if they did, the president has pledged to veto them.
The anti-DACA vote, however, will have real consequences for the Republican Party. Consider that recent polling from Latino Decisions showed that 75 percent of Latino voters said that any move to dismantle DACA would make them less favorably inclined towards the GOP. Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist, tweeted that the anti-DACA vote "antagonizes Latinos, energizes Democratic base, and emboldens the GOP 'No' caucus." She is right -- and the GOP will be paying the price for years to come. Two hundred sixteen House members, many of whom harbor national ambitions, are now on record as opposing a policy supported by overwhelming majorities of Latino voters.
Obviously, a majority of House Republicans supported these measures -- or they wouldn't have passed. "The changes brought into this (the border bills) are ones I've developed and advocated for over the past two years. It's like I ordered it off the menu," Rep. Steve King (R- Iowa) told CQ Roll Call. The fact that the GOP position on immigration is now in sync with King, a man who once compared Dreamers to drug mules, should be alarming to Republicans concerned about their long-term viability as a national party. As disappointing as President Obama has been on immigration, these mean-spirited votes make it clearer than ever which party values Hispanic voters.
Friday's House votes were a sad spectacle. On immigration, the GOP has taken another hard lurch to the right, and Latino voters will not soon forget it.