At first blush, the fact that House Republicans actually voted on a bill related to immigration policy yesterday may have encouraged reform proponents. The GOP majority has been inclined to largely ignore the issue for quite a while.
But the legislation the House took up yesterday didn’t support reform progress; it did the opposite.
A House Republican bill aimed at forcing President Barack Obama to enforce immigration and other laws as they are written drew sharp rebukes Wednesday from the White House and House Democrats, who ripped the measure as anti-immigrant.The legal dispute over President Barack Obama’s unilateral decision to suspend deportations for people brought to the country illegally by their parents, known as “dreamers,” has split the GOP and Democrats before.
At least on paper, the legislation, which passed 233 to 181, wasn’t explicitly about immigration. Rather, this was yet another election-year “message bill,” in which House Republicans pretended to be outraged about President Obama’s entirely routine executive orders. GOP leaders put together a bill – subtly called the ENFORCE Act – intended to make it easier for members of Congress to sue the White House, forcing the administration to prioritize law enforcement in line with lawmakers’ wishes.
It is, by any sensible measure, a deeply foolish proposal. How many House Republicans, some of whom surely knew better, had the sense to vote against this transparent nonsense? Zero.
But immigration stood at the center of the debate because Republicans put it there: to prove Obama’s tyrannical tendencies, GOP lawmakers used the administration’s deferred action on Dream Act kids as Exhibit A.
In practical terms, then, the Republican bill was part of an effort to force Obama to deport immigrant children who came to the United States with their families.
It’s almost as if House Republicans decided, as an election-year gambit, to enrage the Latino community on purpose.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was eager to criticize the GOP scheme.
“[T}his runs contrary to our most deeply held values as Americans, and asks law enforcement officials to treat these DREAMers the same way as they would treat those with criminal records, those with violent criminal records.“We urge House Republicans to focus on actually fixing our broken immigration system to provide opportunity for all instead of legislation designed to deny opportunity to those who are Americans in every way, in their hearts, in their minds, in their experiences in every way but on paper.“So you hear a lot of talk about where people are on this issue. It doesn’t require much to look at what House Republicans are doing today to question whether or not they’re serious about moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform.”
Looking ahead, the bill approved by the House yesterday stands no chance of success in the Democratic-led Senate and would be quickly vetoed by the president if it somehow reached his desk. GOP leaders obviously know this, but wasted time on the bill anyway, instead of doing real work (on immigration or anything else).
Why? Party leaders apparently decided it was time for a little stunt to show the party’s far-right base that House Republicans are standing up to Obama for using his executive authority the exact same way every other president has for more than two centuries.
As for the future of immigration reform, the DREAM Coalition, a group representing the children of undocumented immigrants, said the vote “demonstrates Republicans can no longer be relied upon to bring up a sensible and practicable immigration reform bill this year.”