In October, President Obama hosted an event at the White House with supporters of immigration reform, and when describing the political circumstances, he chuckled a bit
at the absurdity of it all.
"Obviously, just because something is smart and fair and good for the economy and fiscally responsible and supported by business and labor and the evangelical community and many Democrats and many Republicans -- that does not mean that it will actually get done," he said. "This is Washington after all."
That was eight months ago, when it seemed kind of silly to think a bipartisan compromise endorsed by the public, the White House, business leaders, law enforcement, labor unions, the faith community, economists, and deficit hawks would whither on the vine.
But in a surprisingly simple equation, House Republicans decided they would do nothing: they would kill the bipartisan compromise; they would refuse to offer an alternative of their own; and they would reject negotiations with those they disagreed with.
And so, a year after the Senate easily approved a popular, comprehensive solution, immigration reform is dead. In this game of "Clue," it was Republicans, in the House, with their indifference.
For months, we'd hear reform proponents argue that the effort still has a pulse. Maybe there was a chance, they said. Maybe GOP leaders would work out a deal. Maybe Republican strategists and pollsters would advise the party that failure would cost them dearly. Maybe GOP officials would want at least one accomplishment to run on before the elections.
But even the most optimistic reform supporters have given up
. Republican hostility for immigration is simply an immovable object, impermeable to reason. After years of effort, the campaign is not almost dead; it's not kind of dead; it's just dead.
A leading House Democrat on Wednesday declared immigration reform dead because his Republican colleagues are blocking it and called on President Obama to take executive action to stem deportations of undocumented immigrants. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), one of the most vocal immigration advocates on Capitol Hill, said in a fiery floor speech that the GOP's "chance to play a role in immigration policy is over. We've given you time to craft legislation and you failed."
Unable to change the facts, despite a valiant effort, Gutierrez added
, "My point of view is, this is over.... Every day, they become not recalcitrant, but even more energetically opposed to working with us. How many times does someone have to say no until you understand they mean no?"
This is not to say Republicans are entirely silent on the subject. On the contrary, GOP officials won't vote, govern, or legislate, but they will share their opinion on what should happen next.
As Greg Sargent explained very well
, Republicans are now "officially the party of 'get the hell out.'"
[House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte yesterday] effectively declared immigration reform dead as long as Obama is in office, blaming his decision to defer the deportation of DREAMers for the current crisis of unaccompanied migrants crossing. [...] And that's where we are now. The current crisis is actually an argument for comprehensive immigration reform. But Goodlatte — who once cried about the breakup of families — is now reduced to arguing that the crisis is the fault of Obama’s failure to enforce the law. Goodlatte’s demand (which is being echoed by other, dumber Republicans) that Obama stop de-prioritizing the deportation of the DREAMers really means: Deport more children. When journalist Jorge Ramos confronted Goodlatte directly on whether this is really what he wants, the Republican refused to answer directly. But the two main GOP positions — no legalization, plus opposition to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (relief for the DREAMers) — add up inescapably to “get the hell out” as the de facto GOP response to the broader crisis.
After months of debate and discussions, and unanswered questions about what the GOP position on immigration would become, the fight has become quite straightforward: Republicans want more deportations; Republicans want more border security; and Republicans want to ignore every other aspect of the debate.
Two weeks ago, when outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) characterized the Democratic position on immigration as "my way or the highway," it was among the most hilariously ironic comments Cantor has ever made. Democrats have bent over backwards to create a bipartisan solution
GOP lawmakers can support, only to find that Republicans will settle for nothing less than a concession-free, far-right deportation policy.
Period. Full stop.
Looking ahead, Democratic leaders warned yesterday that President Obama is "not bluffing
" in his intention to take executive action on immigration. At this point, with the demise of reform upon us, the White House has no other choice -- it's either executive actions or nothing.