House GOP leaders signal support for immigration overhaul


Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) appeared at an event yesterday in Chicago in support of comprehensive immigration reform, which hardly came as a surprise – Gutierrez has been one of the nation’s leading reform proponents for years. More surprising, though, was the fact that he was standing alongside House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

The failed former vice presidential candidate was asked about those who argue the Boston Marathon bombing should derail proposed changes, but Ryan told reporters, “If anything, this is a case in point on the need to modernize our immigration laws.”

In other words, according to Ryan, the far-right arguments connecting Boston to immigration policy are unpersuasive. He wasn’t the only one who thinks so.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Fox News that Boston may delay immigration reform by “a couple of days,” but he believes, “[I]f fix our immigration system, it may actually help us understand who all’s here, why they’re here, and what legal status they have.”

Remember, as far as the right is concerned, stopping comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate will be difficult given the “Gang of Eight,” but the Republican-led House is where conservatives can kill this legislation before it becomes law.

Except, House GOP leaders don’t want to kill reform. On the contrary, they want to take the issue off the table, pass reform, and prevent Democrats from using it against them in 2014 (and beyond). Conservative activists hoping to see Boehner and Ryan taking orders from the far-right are likely to be disappointed, at least as far as immigration is concerned.

Jon Chait noted yesterday that reform opponents are feeling discouraged: “ ‘There are some people who lost their will to fight this fight,’ one conservative talk show host conceded to the New York Times, ‘They think they’ve lost it already and they’ve sort of thrown in the towel, including my fellow radio hosts.’”

Chait added that far-right activists hope delaying tactics will derail the bill, but Republican leaders seem to know better.

A drawn-out immigration debate commanding center stage will simply create more opportunities for conservative Republicans to say offensive things about Latinos. And make no doubt: however diligently their consultants coach them not to, they will say offensive things about Latinos. So far we’ve had one Republican member call undocumented immigrants “wetbacks” and another publicly muse that some of them may be secret Al Qaeda agents.

And we’ve only just begun! A whole summer of this stuff could drive the Democratic share of the Latino vote into the 80s.

Is it any wonder Boehner and Ryan want to get this over with?

Postscript: Before we move on, Politico has a big, 1,500-word piece it’s publicizing this morning, adopting the far-right’s argument: “The immigration proposal pending in Congress would transform the nation’s political landscape for a generation or more – pumping as many as 11 million new Hispanic voters into the electorate a decade from now in ways that, if current trends hold, would produce an electoral bonanza for Democrats and cripple Republican prospects in many states they now win easily.”

Here’s the problem with the observation: Politico’s report is based on the assumption that 100% of the new Americans will register to vote, 100% of them will participate in elections, and 100% of them may back Democratic candidates. It is, to put it mildly, a stretch.

House GOP leaders signal support for immigration overhaul