Lit by the tail light of a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle, a section of the U.S.- Mexico border fence stands on April 10, 2013 in La Joya, Texas.
John Moore/Getty

On immigration, complaining is easy; governing is hard

Updated
As the humanitarian crisis along the nation’s Southern border became more serious, with tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children entering the country illegally, Republicans demanded a response from President Obama. The White House reminded GOP policymakers that comprehensive immigration reform would help enormously.
 
No, Republicans replied. The GOP wants action, but not this kind of action.
 
Yesterday, the Obama administration went a step further, requesting $3.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with the problem. As the Washington Post reported, the resources are needed to build detention centers, add immigration judges, and beef up border security, all while expediting deportations that will hopefully discourage an additional influx.
 
Republicans apparently don’t like this, either.
[T]he proposal was quickly met with broad skepticism among Republican lawmakers, who were doubtful that the package would be approved quickly – if at all.
 
But GOP leaders, who have called on Obama to take stronger action, said they were reluctant to give the administration a “blank check” without ­more-detailed plans to ensure that the money would help stem the crisis at the border…. Asked if he thought lawmakers would approve the proposal, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said, “No, given the mood here in Washington, I don’t have confidence it will happen.”
Oddly enough, soon after the White House made the request for emergency funds, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) suggested the president’s appeal would be approved. This seemed like it might be one of those rare crises that generated a bipartisan response, not another partisan food fight.
 
But within a couple of hours, the winds shifted. Republicans want a response to the problem, but apparently, if the White House has a new plan, the GOP isn’t inclined to approve it. The Republican reaction to the proposal, as of this morning, is “almost universally negative.”
 
All of which leads to a straightforward question: do Republicans want a solution to the crisis or do they want to complain about the crisis. They can’t have both.
 
Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), for example, is demanding a presidential photo-op at the border.
 
“If it’s serious enough for him to send a $3.7 billion funding request to us, I would think it would be serious enough for him to take an hour of his time on Air Force One to go down and see for himself what the conditions are,” Cornyn told reporters. “I think it would be instructive for him.”
 
It’s fascinating. The White House is offering a policy solution, but no photo-op. Republicans want a photo-op, but no policy solution. It would appear we have another count in the indictment against the GOP as a post-policy party.
 
Far-right outside groups, not surprisingly, are also pressuring Congress to reject the president’s plan, with the Heritage Foundation’s spin-off entity, Heritage Action, calling the proposal a “non-starter.” The group complained that the administration’s measure “seeks to address the symptoms, not the cause.”
 
In this case, the right believes the “cause” is the president’s decision to allow Dream Act kids to stay in the United States – a policy Republicans are eager to end by deporting these young people who’ve spent most of their lives in this country. As for the actual cause, the right will have to look back a little further.
It was one of the final pieces of legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush, a measure that passed without controversy, along with a pension bill and another one calling for national parks to be commemorated on quarters. […]
 
Now the legislation, enacted quietly during the transition to the Obama administration, is at the root of the potentially calamitous flow of unaccompanied minors to the nation’s southern border.
 
Originally pushed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers as well as by evangelical groups to combat sex trafficking, the bill gave substantial new protections to children entering the country alone who were not from Mexico or Canada by prohibiting them from being quickly sent back to their country of origin.
Looking ahead, GOP lawmakers have a decision to make. They can, in theory, keep complaining, demanding action while rejecting every plan of action. Or they can, in theory, try governing for a change.
 
* Correction: Heritage Action is a 501(c)4, not a super PAC.
 

House Republicans, Immigration Policy and Immigration Reform

On immigration, complaining is easy; governing is hard

Updated