Vice President Biden was in Miami over the weekend, speaking to college students when, when his remarks were interrupted by a protestor who calling for an end to deportations.
“We’ll do that, too, kid, but let me finish this speech,” Biden replied.
Whether the vice president was making an off-hand comment or previewing an as-yet-unannounced White House policy is unclear – I suspect it was the former, but with Biden, there’s a track record to consider – but the unscripted moment was nevertheless a reminder of a policy debate at the crossroads.
The fact that the Obama/Biden team would even be considering a dramatic change on deportations is the result of unyielding opposition from House Republicans, who won’t even allow a vote on a popular, bipartisan reform bill.
To help reinforce the point, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) talked to Univision’s Jorge Ramos over the weekend, and as Greg Sargent noted, the conservative congressman ended up saying something he probably didn’t want to say.
Ramos repeatedly pressed Goodlatte to explain why it is that House Republicans refuse to act on immigration reform. Goodlatte repeatedly claimed the problem is that Republicans can’t trust Obama to enforce the law, as evidenced by the fact that deportations from the interior have dropped. Goodlatte explicitly said the problem is that only people convicted of serious crimes are getting deported from the interior.Ramos then pressed Goodlatte on whether this means Republicans want to see more deportations from the interior. Goodlatte – who as chair of the House Judiciary Committee is a key player on immigration – refused to answer directly.
This was an amusing moment in which a lawmaker seemed to set a trap for himself, and then fell in it, but it’s also an important moment in the larger debate.
Follow the logical progression:
1. Goodlatte won’t consider comprehensive immigration reform.
2. Goodlatte blames “trust” issues with President Obama.
3. Goodlatte would consider trusting Obama, but the president is already using executive branch authority to curtail deportations.
4. Asked if that means Goodlatte wants more deportations, he doesn’t want to talk about it.
By any sensible measure, the congressman’s talking point is difficult to take seriously. Obama tightened border security beyond anything seen by modern administrations and vastly increased deportations. The White House hoped this might establish some goodwill with GOP lawmakers, who instead decided they couldn’t care less.
So when Goodlatte says the House won’t act because the president “keeps showing that he won’t enforce current law,” the congressman probably knows how deeply silly this is. He and his party just bounce from one excuse to another because – spoiler alert – they don’t want to pass immigration reform.
But yesterday was important because it pulled back the curtain further: Goodlatte effectively conceded that he and his allies on the right not only oppose reform, they also want to see an increase in deportations, in exchange for nothing.
As Greg concluded, “Goodlatte himself suggests that legalization for the 11 million is the goal – while implicitly acknowledging that Republicans can’t support this because not enough of them currently living and working here are getting deported. It’s a nonsensical position, but that is inescapably their stance, and it’s good to have this demonstrated so graphically by a senior Republican.”