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How the Democratic Approach to Immigration Reform Teaches Republicans Democrats are their Doormat


If only Democrats could ask Republicans to at least wipe their feet.

Now that the House has blocked any kind of overhaul on the Senate's 'comprehensive' immigration bill, the bill will continue to sit idle in Congress, waiting for House members to move it up along their list of other priorities (which probably won’t happen until well after the August break). And as the nation waits, it seems that everyone is taking a guess at what will happen next. 

Most progressives expect the Republican controlled house to spit out an even more extreme, ring-wing bill – something with more heightened border security and harsher penalties for those here illegally. Some progressives, so lost of faith, have gone a little loopy, laughing about how they expect their tax dollars to go to feeding alligators in man-made rivers along the border. 

Other progressives don’t expect the House to rule on a bill at all – an educated guess considering the House’s extra extremist conservatives and ultra liberals (who probably won’t vote for a bill that includes border security levels equal to or higher than that in the Senate’s bill) that make up its recipe for congressional failure. 

And right-wing media is urging its House members to kill the bill immediately, claiming it’s not an urgent issue and won’t help the GOP win in 2014, so why bother? 

Even immigrant and Latino advocacy groups like and the Border Network for Human Rights have backed out, saying they don’t want this bill or any bill that builds off the Senate’s compromise to pass.  In a statement released June 27, said of their dissent:

The promise of immigration reform was that the lives of 11 million people would be enriched by granting them a pathway to citizenship. What we have in the Corker-Hoeven amendment is the enrichment of companies that lobby for and profit from jailing, surveilling and building fences against immigrants, including the millions from among the “11 million” that will left out by the legislation. Surveys, polls and common sense tell us that Latino voters want real reform, not more punishment for immigrants.

If this is really what the immigration debate has come to, if this is really what there is to expect, is it smart to even hope a positive immigration bill will turn out in the end?

Sure there are some signs of hope – like Bush’s speech on Tuesday where he urged Congress to find a “positive resolution” on immigration reform, or the recent poll that found there would be strong backlash against House members who oppose immigration reform – but ultimately there’s really not much to hold onto.

That’s because what the immigration debate had evolved into is an array of failures and displeasures on both the parts of Republicans and Democrats.

Here’s why:

Republicans continue to misunderstand the fundamental necessity of winning Latino votes in order to stay afloat. Instead, many have begun arguing they simply need to find and turn out “missing white voters.” First off, this is just wrong. But, perhaps more importantly, this line of thinking has cultivated Republicans’ transparent strategy of passing an immigration bill that screams ‘comprehensive’ (in an effort to win voters) but which, in actuality, does nothing on the matter.

Let’s elaborate on that point.

If GOP Senators believe ‘comprehensive’ to mean:

  • A military border complex complete with 18,000 new border patrol, deployment of the National Guard, an additional 700 miles of fencing, 15 Blackhawk Helicopters, 30 marine vessels, 18 (weaponized) drones and more – all of which allows for prisons and military companies to gain sheer profit from immigration reform
  • Or the fact that the current bill’s promise of a path to legalization for 11 million was a lie (4-5 million will be left out due to the loopholes and obstacles included in the bill)

Then they’ve sure got ‘comprehensive.’

But when Democrats continue to give way to GOP bullying and whining, therefore allowing this definition of ‘comprehensive’ to take form and set down roots, what we see is the not only the failure of both parties to undertake the nation’s demand for immigration reform, but we see a sign of Democratic capitulation.

And as a result, Democrats have continued, and most likely will continue, to move farther and father away from their initial immigration reform goals all in the name of political expediency.

Sadly, Democrats continue to give Republicans the benefit of the doubt, saying that Republicans just need more time to grapple with concerns about border security and the changing demographics of America. But this simply isn’t true. Sure there’s a political panic taking place within the GOP, but when it comes to the Republicans inside the House, they’re just fine with their whites-only club. All that matters now it keeping their base of conservative white voters happy. And, sorry progressives, but that doesn’t spell out immigration reform – even if we are patient with them and hold their hand along the way.

Perhaps the House will pass an immigration bill, but whether that will make the nation a winner is still to be determined.

But what is most clear, at least in my opinion, is that if a bill passes or not, what will be remembered are two things:

How Democrats yielded in unprecedented and disappointing ways to a tyrant-like GOP, giving Republicans the idea that they can push and corner Democrats as much as they want if the Democrats want something bad enough. (And unfortunately, they might be right about this one.) Or, in other words, teaching Republicans how to get away with using Democrats as their doormat. 

And that nobody, starting at the beginning with Republicans and concluding with Democrats at the end of their compromise, wanted this bill.

This moment in history, though, might very well serve as learning curve for what can happen when political groups, or any group for that matter, enters into a debate with the objective of compromising. Though the Democrats did indeed get their immigration bill, they have lost the heart of the bill, and with it, all the excitement and momentum to finally fix our broken immigration system.

In a sense, this moment has gutted many U.S. citizens of their hope.

Perhaps it would be wise, then, to follow in the footsteps of, the Border Network for Human Rights and other advocacy groups that pulled their support for the Senate’s immigration bill. At least then we’d know we weren’t pretending to “do something” about immigration like our political parties have.


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