Republicans Figure Out New Way to Show Racial Intolerance - 17 Red States Sue To Block Immigration Reform

The GOP has figured out a way to be even more condescending toward America’s communities of color in a week where the country has been roiled by grand juries that refused to charge white policemen who used excessive force and killed two unarmed black men. 

On Wednesday, 17 red states led by incoming Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, sued the Obama Administration’s top officials who oversee immigration policies to challenge the recently announced executive orders that would allow 5 million undocumented people to remain in the country. Apart from the absurdity that the complaint reads like a talking points list for Fox News instead of a complaint raising serious legal issues, it contains an array of assertions that range from the ridiculous to the insensitive—if not implicitly racist.

Let’s just look at a half-dozens of those points that again show what the GOP really thinks about what matters to America’s communities of color.

1. It’s not about immigration? The suit comically begins, after listing the 17 states, by asserting, “This lawsuit is not about immigration. It is about the rule of law, presidential power, and the structural limits of the U.S. Constitution.” If it’s not about immigration and the GOP collective hatred of all things Obama, what is it about?

2. “Dramatic and irreparable injuries.” The states say that allowing 40 percent of the nation’s undocumented population to stay in the country free from fear of deportation will cause that level of dramatic harm. That’s quite a slap at millions of people who include youths under age 16 now in school and employees at many low-wage jobs—as well as family members who have work visas or are U.S. citizens. The lawsuit also doesn’t mention that the 40 percent figure is exactly the same as the percentage of undocumented immigrants who were granted immunity from prosecution by a Republican President, George Herbert Walker Bush, in the early 1990s.

3. Little more than a bad talk radio rant. The lawsuit then reads like a script assembled by Rush Limbaugh’s producers. It quotes Obama saying he is reluctant to issue executive orders on immigration, and complains that somehow the president is exceeding his authority by allowing “99.5 to 99.8 percent” of undocumented youths under the age of 16 to stay without fear of deportation.

Now, quoting any political figure and beating up on those statements is a rhetorical tactic in the battle for public opinion. That is not the same as presenting evidence in a court of legal opinion where judges have to look at the facts, the law, and rule. But beyond that ruse, think about it, these 16 red state governors want to keep millions of young people and their families in a perpetual state of fear of deportation and fractured lives.

4. More political baiting and switching. The suit goes on to claim that states like Texas have been forced to spend money on police due to an “immigration surge” at the border, which refers to this past summer’s influx of young people from Central America. “This crisis was caused by the immigration policies of the federal government… by refusing to enforce the laws on the books.”

That assertion is ridiculous. The Obama administration, to the great frustration of pro-immigration activists, deported record numbers of people before it issued its executive orders. Moreover, the executive orders that the red state governors are seeking to block only would affect people who have been in the U.S. for at least five years—which means they would no impact on recent arrivals.

5. Then come the anti-immigrant swipes. The suit confidently asserts, “Unsurprisingly, the undocumented immigrants crossing the border are motivated primarily by the belief that they will not be deported.” That reductionist claim shows just how out-of-touch the Republicans are with the reality of what’s motivating people to come to the U.S. in the first place, starting with a desire for a better life or to be reunited with their family.

But as the compliant continues, the governors then say that they don’t want to spend any money on providing basic state services to immigrants, such as for emergency healthcare. They go further and say that undocumented people should not be treated with dignity by state agencies, such as being able to get driver’s licenses, and they complain that state agencies are frustrated—“to take on the burdensome task”—of having to interact with immigrants in the first place.

6. And they’re still fighting the Civil War. Next year will be the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, but these 17 states—a good slice of which were in the Conferderacy—are still grousing that they wish they could deal with immigrants the old-fashioned way: by taking matters into their own hands. “If the Plaintiff States had the sovereign power to redress these problems, they would,” the GOP governors wrote, concluding. “But the Supreme Court has held that authority over immigration is largely lodged in the federal government. Accordingly, litigation against the federal government is the only way for the States to vindicate their interests and those of their citizens.”

There’s little in this lawsuit that has not been uttered in public before by Republicans who don’t like the president and the fact that the executice branch has power and uses it. However, the timing of this lawsuit, filed within days of two of the most controversial race-based judicial actions in recent memory—grand juries in Missouri and New York exonerating white police officers whose use of excessive force killed unarmed black men—is extraordinary.

It shows how tone-deaf, insensitive and implicitly racist a large segment of the GOP remains. And that’s underscored by the historical fact that President George H.W. Bush issued similar executive orders on immigration a quarter-century ago that extended protection from deportation to the same percentage of unauthorized immigrants.

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