A decade ago, the conservative movement seemed up in arms over the idea of a president — at that time, President Barack Obama — essentially usurping immigration authority from Congress. The fact that Obama issued executive orders (in lieu of congressional action) to resolve some of the issues plaguing the U.S. immigration system was framed, by many conservatives, as dangerous overreach.
Now, far-right Republicans are rejecting a new bipartisan immigration bill devised in the Senate and framing executive action, perhaps under a potential Donald Trump presidency, as the only way the United States’ immigration issues will get resolved. Suddenly, their belief in Congress’ authority and responsibility when it comes to this matter has melted away.
House GOP leadership released a statement Monday claiming the proposed bill won't see a vote in the House because President Joe Biden "has refused to utilize his broad executive authority" to stem immigration.
It's a talking point we've heard a lot from Republicans over the last week — and one deeply inconsistent with their previous claims.
“The only way we’re gonna fix the border is to have a new president,” Rep. Carlos Giménez said Sunday on Fox News. The Florida Republican claimed, “President Biden can control the border today if he wanted to — he doesn’t need any legislation from Congress to do so.”
Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas essentially echoed Giménez, and repeated his previous admission that he has political reasons for wanting to thwart a potential legislative win for Biden.
“Congress doesn’t have to do anything to secure our southern border and fix it,” Nehls claimed in footage obtained by Rolling Stone.
“Why would I help Joe Biden improve his dismal 33 percent [approval rating] when he can fix the border and secure it on his own? He can do it on his own through executive order,” Nehls said. Nehls touted the slew of executive orders that then-President Donald Trump signed regarding immigration, but, as Rolling Stone noted, many of those were deemed unconstitutional.
Tactically, this feigned political impotence seems like an obvious ploy to help Trump’s electoral chances this November. In January, after House Speaker Mike Johnson claimed now is “not the time for comprehensive immigration reform,” I wrote of my belief that Republicans want to incite and highlight chaos along the southern border with hopes of framing Trump as the only one who can fix it. And Trump has done his part to push this idea by publicly railing against the immigration deal and praising Johnson for opposing it.
Johnson, who's said he and Trump speak frequently about immigration reform, told NBC News' Kristen Welker on Sunday that he — not Trump — is "calling the shots" when it comes to Republicans' stance on border legislation, a laughable notion in today's MAGA GOP.
But Johnson, Nehls and Giménez are showing us a lot with their feigned haplessness.
House Republicans seem to think that if voters witness chaos at the border and a Congress seemingly incapable of passing laws to remedy that chaos, they will be more open to electing Trump, who’s vowed to use dictatorial means to curtail migration on "day one."
GOPers who are in Congress right now and could take action on immigration are willingly ceding that power in order to frame Trump as a some kind of future savior. But that just underscores how today’s Republican Party exists for few reasons other than propping up Donald Trump.