House Republicans are still opposed to comprehensive immigration reform, but they're suddenly taking a fresh look at the Dream Act.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday offered an endorsement for a proposal to grant citizenship to children who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents."This is about basic fairness," Boehner said one week after convening a two-hour meeting to discuss immigration with his conference. "These children were brought here of no accord of their own, and frankly they're in a very difficult position," he said. "And I think many of our members believe that this issue needs to be addressed."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) recently sounded a very similar note. "It's an issue of decency and compassion," he said. "Where else would these kids go?"
To that end, The Hill reports that Cantor and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) are crafting a bill to deal with children brought to the U.S. illegally, and the measure will likely get an initial House hearing next week.
Given the hard line House Republicans have taken on immigration, I suppose this shift is a heartening sign, but I have three questions.
First, in 2010, the House brought the Dream Act to the floor and over 95% of House Republicans voted against it. Among those voting in opposition were some guys by the name of Boehner, Cantor, and Goodlatte. If this is "about basic fairness" now, where were they two-and-a-half years ago?
And third, the case for the Dream Act is pretty easy to make, but Boehner and Cantor have a responsibility to consider not only what happens to these kids -- for whom the United States is the only home they've ever known -- but also what Washington intends to do about their families.
House GOP leaders have had a change of heart and now believe these children "were brought here of no accord of their own." It's only fair to ask, "Where else would these kids go?" I'm delighted. But even if we put aside that President Obama has already adopted a temporary fix to this problem, the question then becomes what happens when Republicans allow the kids to stay, but endorse a broken status quo that intends to deport the kids' family.
"Congratulations, we've passed the Dream Act and you can stay. Now say goodbye to your mom and dad."
What's needed, in other words, is a comprehensive solution. And it's the one thing House Republicans are reluctant to even consider.
If Boehner and Cantor see this partial step as offering them necessary political cover if their caucus kills the bipartisan reform bill, they're making a very bad bet.