The House GOP Fantasy Conundrum on Immigration Reform and the Challenge Ahead
Co-authored with Rocio Saenz, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
It just doesn't get old ... until it does.
Years back, then-President Reagan spoke about supporting "amnesty" as a "legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek to come legally to America."
Today, "amnesty" has become a bad word--meant to incite unsubstantiated fear--in the lexicon of GOP extremists, led notably by anti-immigrant poster-boy Steve King (R-Iowa). Trumpeted by the likes of Laura Ingrahamesque radio personalities, King and others in his small camp of misguided misanthropists have employed racially charged excuses, sometimes shrouded in an argument for "protecting American jobs," to block or delay rational and long-overdue immigration reform.
This out-of-touch arm of the Republican Party has used such rhetoric to try to delude their party into thinking it's a winning argument. It clearly didn't win any favors for Cantor or South Carolina primary contender Det Bowers.
But on top of that, there's also House Speaker John Boehner with another audacious attack on the Obama administration's supposed lack of resolve on immigration (despite the growing clamor of the immigration reform movement). Last week, he blamed President Obama for the crisis of unaccompanied minor children and recommended deployment of the National Guard to the Southwest border.
Why try to once again play the game of blame and detraction when the complexities of this issue go deep into the roots of several problems, most notably our damaged immigration system?
Gentlemen, this fantastical conundrum you have created around the issue of immigration will only lead your entourage into the depth of lonely Ground Hog days where you'll keep hearing us say, "There they go again."
Again and again, Republicans will see themselves lose to candidates, both within their faction and across the aisle, who carry the support of the bloc of giants in wait--the Latino and Asian American voters. These are the voters and future droves of voters who right now are watching, taking score, and will not forget who stood in the way of reuniting families, and the path to legalization and citizenship for millions of our sisters and brothers.
Denial of what the makeup of the United States will look like in years to come is--pardon our Carville-crass--stupid.
Boehner, now Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and "establishment" Republicans looking for longevity have a chance to change the fate of their party. And it starts with immigration reform right now.
It's the issue to open the conversation with Latinos and Asian Americans on many more matters. Think of the possibilities and just don't contain yourself to electoral cycles; primaries are never out of bounds.
But they must act now. The window to pass immigration reform is narrowing and once it closes, the GOP will be held accountable. That is guaranteed.
Republican candidates and legacy will be on the line. If there's one thing we've learned in our combined 20-plus years of fighting for immigration reform, it's that it is not about us as leaders or "champions," but about the movement. Whether or not we agree on certain strategies or represent business, labor or youth, we are all committed to making immigration reform a reality.
Immigration reform will happen. And it's up to the GOP leaders in the House to join us in the legacy of the American immigration reform movement and save their political livelihood ... or face the anger of the Latino and Asian American voter.
You better believe, when immigration reform does pass, Republicans who spun the anti-immigrant PR will have to confront their decision to not act in elections and in the public opinion. They will all be asked, "Why did you stand in the way of immigration reform when the majority of Americans supported its enactment?"
Our advice: Just remember another Reaganism, "If you're explaining, you're losing."