The extent of House Republicans’ opposition to comprehensive immigration reform has been well documented. The GOP majority in the chamber simply will not consider the popular, bipartisan Senate bill and Republicans have so refused to offer an alternative of their own.
But just how sweeping is the GOP’s hostility towards undocumented immigrants? The answer came into sharper focus late on Friday afternoon, in a story that was largely overlooked.
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) has sponsored a proposal called the ENLIST Act, which seems like the sort of bill that could garner broad support: under the plan, young, undocumented immigrants who entered the United States before they turned 15 would be able to join the U.S. military. After their service, so long as they’re honorably discharged, these immigrants would become legal permanent residents and be eligible to apply for citizenship.
As we discussed in April, the legislation is in line with American traditions – many immigrants to the U.S. became citizens by serving in the military – and has already picked up some bipartisan support from 26 Democrats and 24 Republicans.
Denham and his allies hoped to push the ENLIST Act onto the House floor this week, so on Friday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) killed the bipartisan proposal.
Rep. Jeff Denham labeled his bill the ENLIST Act and said he would seek a vote as an amendment to the popular annual defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.In response, Doug Heye, spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said: “No proposed ENLIST amendments to NDAA will be made in order.”Heye said no stand-alone vote on the measure would be permitted, either.
When the Associated Press asked House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office whether the Speaker agrees with Cantor’s decision, Boehner’s spokesperson said the GOP leadership is on the same page.
And with that, a sensible bill with broad support, which would bolster the military, support immigrants, and honor American traditions, is dead – because Heritage Action and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) deemed the proposal unacceptable.
Danny Vinik added:
Republicans and Democrats agree on very little in the debate over immigration reform…. But there should one thing that everyone agrees on: If you are an undocumented immigrant and you serve in the United States military, we’ll grant you a green card. If you are willing to put your life on the line for this country, then you deserve the right to stay here.But for some Republicans, even that is unacceptable.
That’s right, though it’s worth emphasizing that in this case, “some Republicans” refers to the GOP leadership. Boehner and Cantor could, in theory, ignore the right-wing and allow the House to exercise its will on the ENLIST Act and other bipartisan immigration measures, but the most powerful Republican lawmakers in Washington refuse to even allow up-or-down votes.
And if GOP leaders are prepared to kill a no-brainer like the ENLIST Act (late on a Friday afternoon when it’s less likely to get a lot of attention), then the odds of Boehner and Cantor ever allowing progress on comprehensive reform are that much more remote.
There still seems to be some lingering question as to who’s responsible for the death of immigration reform. As of now, it’s as clear as it’s ever been that this question has been answered.