U.S. Republicans Get a “Red Card” on Immigration

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Not only have GOP lawmakers responded disgracefully to the child migrant crisis along the border, they’re setting themselves up for a demographic slap in the face in 2016. (Photo: Wikimedia/Tomas Castelazo)

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) recently used a World Cup analogy to castigate his Republican colleagues for blocking immigration reform. “Leave the field, too many flagrant offenses and unfair attacks. You’re out,” Gutierrez said. “Hit the showers. It’s the red card.”

(In case you’re not into soccer: Referees bestow red cards on players they deem guilty of misconduct warranting expulsion from the field. These infractions leave a team down a player and at a big disadvantage.)

President Barack Obama has no choice but to take executive action on immigration, Gutierrez added. He’s right. Yet Republicans shouldn’t celebrate the defeat of immigration reform, even if Obama made it a top priority.

Not only have GOP lawmakers responded disgracefully to the child migrant crisis along the border, they’re setting themselves up for a demographic slap in the face in 2016 — courtesy of Latino voters.

The Republican response to the current crisis on the border has been long on rhetoric, short on solutions. For example, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) holds Obama “personally responsible” for “incentivizing” children to come to the United States through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). DACA grants undocumented youth relief from deportation, but it’s not comprehensive. The Obama administration is deporting undocumented immigrants at record levels, and its DACA policy doesn’t apply to recent arrivals.

Republican lawmakers aren’t letting the facts interfere with their grandstanding.

Consider that right now thousands of unaccompanied minors are overwhelming the Border Patrol in South Texas. U.S. government officials believe that these kids are making the dangerous journey north because traffickers have promised them that they could stay here, and because their home countries are awash in violence.

Yet this crisis actually makes the case for reform. Had the House passed the immigration bill that the Senate approved last year, it could have cleared up confusion about our immigration policy. Moreover, the Senate bill included additional money for Border Patrol agents and for more fencing. These beefed-up security provisions were called the “border surge.”

In response, House Republicans sat on their hands. So, the only “border surge” we’re experiencing today is one of desperate children fleeing Central America.

The fact that Republicans have seized on the child migrant crisis as their latest excuse for not passing immigration reform is as unconscionable as it is disingenuous. The UN High Commissioner on Refugees estimates that about 60 percent of these children may be eligible for humanitarian status. These kids shouldn’t be used to score political points — they deserve humane treatment and compassion.

The GOP’s other excuses for not dealing with immigration fall flat too. They range from the budget sequester to the Boston Marathon bombing to Syria to not trusting Obama.

The bad news for Republicans is that the GOP is firmly saddled with the blame for killing immigration reform since 2007. That’s bound to cost them in the 2016 general elections and could boost the Democrats’ prospects in the 2014 midterms.

A June survey by Latino Decisions found that 74 percent of Latinos said they would view Republicans less favorably if reform didn’t pass, significantly diminishing their chances of retaking the White House.

True, not all Republicans oppose immigration reform. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) both worked with their colleagues across the aisle to craft the Senate immigration bill, only to have their voices drowned out by House hardliners.

And just because reform has died legislatively doesn’t mean nothing can be done. Obama has said that he would take executive action on deportations once there was no chance of reform passing Congress. Pro-immigrant measures continue to pass at the state level, with 11 states allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and New York considering a “state citizenship” plan for undocumented workers.

Meanwhile, immigration activists will soon turn their attention to voter registration and to helping elect candidates pledging to back new immigration laws. Immigration reform may be dead in Congress for now, but change will come.

House Republicans have squandered a historic opportunity. They should be ashamed of their deliberate inaction on immigration and unsurprised when they face the consequences at the polls.

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City.

  • Bluhorizons

    The huge numbers of latinos who have entered the US illegally have not only made it harder for American workers to get jobs, they are one of the major contributors to the US being the only country in the industrialised world to have population increase. Without a doubt the Republicans in their unswerving policy of obstruction have done nothing but make the problem worse. However in fact what the US needs is a wall. The huge number of illegals who are able to enter the US also reveals a gigantic hole thru which real enemies can enter. Terrorists do not need to arrive by plane. They can just stroll across the Rio Grande. If it takes a wall and an army to close this hole, so be it.

    • tshad

      This comment cobbles together obtuse arguments; mangled with fear mongering, it is symptomatic of the effectiveness of the American propaganda machine.

      Jobs are more difficult to come by because large employers lower wages in the name of profits, not due to immigrants. The dearth of jobs correlates with the dearth of corporate morals; Americans are enduring the havoc of a second gilded age.

      Immigrants are willing to work, willing to travel through perilous conditions and work the jobs deemed unworthy for the lowest American “caste”, for the most marginal improvement in their lives. I may remind you, our country is built off the blood of immigrants. I have never heard a more endearing story of American values.

      Secondly, the demographic crisis of shrinking populations in other industrialized nations will place a huge constraint on their ability to maintain their lavish state programs, as well as their capacity to compete on a global scale. We need labor, and we will need labor throughout this century. The current influx of immigrants will give us an advantage in the years to come, at worst, to have people to farm…

      Walls do not stop immigrants, nor terrorists, and I cannot imagine building a wall that stretches the entirety of the Mexican border. Should we not build a wall on the Canadian border too? What if a terrorists walks to Juneau from Vancouver, Toronto to Detroit? And where pray tell does the money for this wall come from? Wouldn’t you like to see some of your tax money spent on a road, a school, a hospital, as opposed to a wall? Please visit the barren deserts of the Sonora, please cross the Rio Grande, before you call it a stroll.

      Many of these children are coming to reunite with their families, who are already established here, who already consider themselves Americans. and who want a future that doesn’t involve gang violence, drug or sex trafficking for their children. Shouldn’t the beacon of human rights and democracy attempt to accommodate these refugees?

      • Bluhorizons

        Perhaps you can say all those things because you, yourself do not actually have contact with the impact of illegal immigration. I owned a low-income condo building in San Diego Country for many years. I had many legal Mexicans living there. The one thing that really, rally made them mad was when they knew some American (such as me) ever hired an illegal. I hired one because he had a good-looking green card, forged of course. My tenants “turned me in” before sunset. They said they were forced to compete for jobs with them and they were angry because they had gone through all the trouble of gaining entry legally, a big job.

        I think for you the actual impact of those illegals on you is zip. What you are saying is from the heart but is not based on reality.

        You seem to think illegals take only low-paying jobs. Why do you think that? They take whatever kind of job they can do. They take jobs in meat cutting plants, factories, mills–where-ever they can! God knows there were enough Americans who would have been glad for a $7/hour job in the recession. My friend lost everything in the crash and had to live in is car. He would tell me over and over again about how he had to compete with illegals just to get a job as a bag boy. So, while your comments are from your heart, mine are from the street.

        “Walls do not stop illegals” Who told you that? I have watched the illegals pile up at the San Ysedro crossing until they had mob and then make a mass run for the border. Low and behold, almost all got stopped. If it takes a wall and an army to bring security to the US–OK. We have already spent billions on out security. At least the money would be well spent–not a bridge to no-where.

        Any country has a right to decide who enters and also to protect its borders. Those legals who complained to me were right! We do not know if real terrorists have already entered but we sure don’t want to wake up to a disaster one day with many killed only to find out that the criminals strolled across the Rio Grande as easy as pie.