Democrats Continue to Get Played by Republicans in Immigration Debate

Mar 13, 2014
9:46 AM

Let’s be real for a second: the Republican Party does not care about comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). With all the promises and principles made this year, in the end, every indication from the GOP leadership confirms that it shows no desire to progress on CIR and all the tweets, Facebook posts, newspaper articles, columns and calls to pressure the GOP have gone (and will go) nowhere.

When you deal with a party that is so out of touch with the American people on immigration, the only solution is to vote them out. We get that, as much as certain critics (specifically, a trolling national radio host from DC who continues to misrepresent our views on Twitter) think we do not.

Nonetheless, the constant blaming on just one party has done very little. The GOP is setting itself up for failure because they don’t believe that the growing demographic (read: read U.S. Latino vote) in the electorate will have any impact on them. As a short-term strategy, the GOP is right. It might do very well in 2014 mid-term elections (Latino turnout is still not strong), but Republicans’ long-term goals are already in jeopardy. All because of its failure to see how much of a heart-string issue immigration is to U.S. Latino voters.

Via America's Voice

Via America’s Voice

Take the case of yesterday’s House vote on the ENFORCE Act, another symbolic attempt to ignore the immigration issue. According to the fabulous Elise Foley of the HuffPost, “The ENFORCE Act, which passed 233 to 181, isn’t about immigration exclusively. Instead, it goes after Obama for alleged overreach on a variety of issues, including Obamacare, education and drug laws. The bill would allow Congress to sue the executive branch for allegedly failing to enforce the law, and it could lead to the dismantling of a key policy protecting some undocumented immigrants.”

Then there is this from Foley’s piece:

“We have seen a pattern: President Obama circumvents Congress when he doesn’t get his way,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said on the House floor in support of the bill. “But the Constitution does not confer upon the president the executive authority to disregard the separation of powers and rewrite acts of Congress based on his policy preferences.”

Before everyone begins to say, “I told you so,” let’s pause for a second and remind people a few things:

  1. The current Republican-controlled House doesn’t care about immigration. All the screaming and pressure in the world won’t change that fact. People who really think they know about immigration believe that if Latino activists focused solely on the GOP, all would change. FYI, that was the strategy in 2013, and so far it hasn’t. Like we always tell those who come after us for daring to raise the issue that Democrats are at fault as well: The Republicans don’t care about immigration. They won’t act on it. They aren’t listening. What will you do now? Wait until November, or speak out against 1,100 deportations a day while you wait until November? There’s a reason why you see hunger strikes in Washington state and #BringThemHome actions on the Tijuana-San Diego border.
  2. The ENFORCE Act is going nowhere. Last night, this is what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “Instead of voting to fix our broken immigration system as the Senate did in June, House Republicans today voted to prevent the President from fixing the problems that are within his constitutional authority to solve. These irresponsible Republican bills are dead on arrival in the Senate. I strongly support the President’s decision to protect DREAMers from deportation. Republicans should try solving problems for a change instead of blocking progress for our nation and making life more difficult for the immigrant community.”
  3. The White House knows the ENFORCE Act is a sham as well. From Jay Carney: “It is, in my view, in our view, pretty amazing that today House Republicans went in the opposite direction by passing legislation targeting the deferred action for childhood arrivals policy that removed the threat of deportation for young people brought to this country as children, known as Dreamers.” Carney also questioned whether Republicans even care. They don’t.

So yes, Reid and the White House understand that any push to dismantle DACA would be dumb on the GOP end, and every rational U.S. Latino voter who favors CIR understands that as well. But here is where the Democratic leadership is still vulnerable: They continue to allow the GOP to control the immigration narrative. They would rather react to Republican silliness and blame the GOP, than truly lead and express the views of their constituents.

And to be honest, that needs to stop, and if there is one thing that represents our view, it is this tweet (a quote from Jorge Ramos, which by the way, got some RT love late last night):

Here’s to all the “radicals” who think like us.

So where do we go next? Signs of a passive Democratic approach look like they are changing, and it’s about time they do. Last night, Buzzfeed’s Adrian Carrasquillo wrote an article about how the Hispanic Congressional Caucus (HCC) is finally taking a stand against the Administration’s pathetic deportation record and also calling Republicans out:

The new language presented at the immigration task force meeting Wednesday asks the president not to deport anyone who would qualify for Senate Bill 744 — the immigration bill — and explicitly mentions expanding deferred action where the first one only hinted at using prosecutorial discretion to slow deportations, a source with knowledge of the updated resolution said.

The idea is that Republicans like Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham voted to make these undocumented immigrants eventual citizens. “People who they’re saying should be citizens tomorrow, should not be deported today,” the source said.

 “People who they’re saying should be citizens tomorrow, should not be deported today.” 

It is an “all-in” moment that would at least show that in the end, the GOP’s interest in CIR was minimal. Such a move by the HCC also aligns with other Democratic senators who are calling for the President to take bolder action on deportations. A little backbone goes a long way.

With this push by Democrats happening, it gives the White House a huge opportunity to make up for its past immigration transgressions. The political cynics in us already sense that all this new messaging by Democrats is the pretext of a move by the President to expand the DACA program to include family members of DREAMers and even very low-priority individuals. The statistics prove that this country oversees a “deportation machine,” and a move towards more deportation relief would be favored by U.S. Latino voters. Such a move would “rally the base,” and with the President’s approval ratings at a record low, a repeat of a DACA-like announcement (remember the boost he got before the 2012 election?) makes sense if the White House is serious about having Democrats so well in the mid-terms. Right now, the truth is, U.S. Latinos are just not that “into you,” Mr. President, when it comes to immigration. It’s really hard to for many U.S. Latino voters to step in line when real stories of families being separated are happening every day.

Because in the end, this isn’t about Beltway politics or election strategies, this is about real human voices and real human stories. Those voices and stories can’t wait until November elections, and they won’t. Our critics will call us “emotional” when we bring that up. We say to them, “This is what our community tells us every day. And we’re listening.” By actually listening and seeing what our world is telling us, change will occur, and if that is not the type of thinking that is conducive to DC, maybe that’s a good thing.



BTW, that national radio host whose online behavior two nights ago was quote unbecoming? He has apologized.

Also interesting that all this talk has sent a signal to the President, who appears to finally be listening.