Say Adios to Real Immigration Reform

By Miguel Perez

February 11, 2014 6 min read

I never thought I would say this, but I'm glad immigration reform is dead for this year. Don't get me wrong: Comprehensive, humane and logical immigration reform — with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants — is long overdue. But the legislation we were getting this year would have been a farce.

Republicans were about to create a permanent underclass of American residents, and the typically outmaneuvered Democrats — just to be able to say they did something — were about to cave in and let them do it.

Congress was getting ready to allow most undocumented immigrants to stay here legally but without ever enjoying the full rights of citizenship, and even President Barack "Si Se Puede" Obama was getting ready to let that happen.

It was disgraceful. Instead of challenging the logic and constitutionality of creating a second class of legal citizens in this country, we heard Obama making excuses for caving in. In recent interviews, the president was leaving the door open for a "reform" package that would have been totally unacceptable — legalization without a path to citizenship — a far cry from the changes he promised when he campaigned for president and Latino voters helped put him in the White House.

If it had not been for the extremist Republicans who objected even to second-class citizenship, if they had not been so hung up about granting any form of "amnesty," if they had not pulled House Speaker John Boehner's puppet strings and forced him to squash his desire to move forward, the legislation that would have been passed — and Obama would have signed — would have been much more draconian than humanitarian. And it would have delayed real reform for many more years.

And so when Boehner surprisingly announced last week that he didn't see a way forward on immigration reform this year, he was unintentionally doing immigrants a huge favor.

"There's widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws," Boehner said, echoing the talking point and very cheap excuse being used by Republicans nowadays. "And it's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes."

Really? So the American people can elect a president, and a group of ideologues in Congress can just say they don't trust him and paralyze the country?

The GOP's latest excuse for putting the breaks on immigration reform is a clear indication of how little respect some Republican leaders have for the will of the American people. We can elect a president, but if the ideologues don't trust him, they can just thrash the principles of democracy.

In fact, while they could possibly charge Obama with failing to enforce some laws, immigration is a lousy example.

Just to please the Republicans, and to try to get them to negotiate fairly over immigration, Obama has shamefully deported more undocumented immigrants than any other president. If they can't trust him to enforce immigration laws, is there anything with which they can trust the president we've elected?

"Why don't we just pack up and go home?" snapped House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi with appropriate sarcasm. "What we're supposed to do is legislate, and not make up excuses as to why we don't."

On NBC this weekend, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Boehner's bluff on not being able to trust Obama. "So there's a simple solution," Schumer said. "Let's enact the law this year, but simply not let it actually start till 2017 after President Obama's term is over."

Really? While this may have been a good way to expose Boehner's phony excuses, it also showed that Schumer, known for mostly using immigration to score political points, is willing to wait another three years to begin bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. Isn't that special?

Yet, if Republicans were to still come back with a "reform" package that has no path to citizenship, where would Schumer, Pelosi and Obama stand?

Frankly, I hope it doesn't happen.

When Obama told CNN he was encouraged by a GOP proposal that didn't include a path to citizenship, when he said he liked the idea of reform in which "folks aren't being deported; families aren't being separated," he was getting ready to cave on a path to citizenship. Mind you, he pointed out that the GOP plan would create "two categories of people in this country," but he was still signaling that he could live with it.

Instead of telling Republicans that he is tired of their efforts to block immigration reform, and that they give him no choice but to act by executive order — as he has done with other issues — Obama hasn't had the guts to stop deportations.

He is tough enough to confront Republicans over other issues but never over this one — even though GOP leaders have repeatedly demonstrated that they will never negotiate about it in good faith. For some inexplicable reason, Obama lacks the internal fortitude to lead when it comes to immigration.

Let's face it: For many who believed Obama could keep his promise to fix our broken and inhumane immigration system, the president has been a huge disappointment.

Perhaps Schumer is partially correct. Perhaps true immigration reform will have to wait until 2017. But it won't be because Boehner doesn't trust Obama. It will be because the American people will have enough time to get rid of both of them.

To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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