To Reform Immigration, Depose the Xenophobes

By Miguel Perez

September 24, 2013 5 min read

As if the immigration reform coffin needed any more nails, two more House Republicans have dropped out of the bipartisan group of legislators who were trying to drive comprehensive reform through a wall of GOP xenophobia on Capitol Hill.

The original "Group of Eight" is now down to five — four Democrats and one lone Republican. Not coincidentally, the only Republican who remains is the one with a huge Hispanic constituency, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of South Florida.

Also not coincidentally, the first to abandon the group was another Latino, Rep. Raul Labrador, a Republican from Idaho who panders to anti-immigrant extremists.

With Labrador setting the precedent for desertion back in June, it was only a matter of time before the other two Republicans also would leave the group. All three used the same lame excuse; they would prefer dealing with immigration though a series of separate, mostly draconian, bills, instead of comprehensive reform — proving that it was never their intention to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Yet this is the group that pro-immigrant champion Rep. Luis Gutierrez was relying on. This is the group that represented the last hope for comprehensive immigration reform this year!

"After years of hard work and countless meetings, we have reached a tipping point and can no longer continue working on a broad approach to immigration," declared Texas Republican Reps. John Carter and Sam Johnson in a joint statement announcing that they were abandoning the group.

Really? And what was that "tipping point"?

"We want to be clear. The problem is politics," they said. "Instead of doing what's right for America, President Obama time and again has unilaterally disregarded the U.S. Constitution, the letter of the law and bypassed the Congress — the body most representative of the people — in order to advance his political agenda."

Apparently, their phony rage is over executive orders issued by President Obama to release the choke Republicans keep squeezing on undocumented immigrants, policy shifts that were made months and years ago. So when did they reach this alleged "tipping point?" Months ago? So why are they quitting now?

"If past actions are the best indicators of future behavior, we know that any measure depending on the president's enforcement will not be faithfully executed," Carter and Johnson said. "It would be gravely irresponsible to further empower this administration by granting them additional authority or discretion with a new immigration system. ... The bottom line is the American people do not trust the president to enforce laws, and we don't either."

Of course, this argument is so blatantly disingenuous that you have to wonder where these two-bit politicians get the gall to claim, "the problem is politics."

But they are right. The problem is THEIR politics!

Their repulsively phony excuse for dropping our of the bipartisan group speak volumes about the Republican fear of "getting primaried" from the right in 2014, and of how little they worry about getting challenged from the left.

We see Republicans targeting even other Republicans who they consider weak of immigration and other important issues. But we don't see enough immigrant rights advocates who are getting ready to challenge them from the left.

Where are the pro-immigrant troops lining up to take on the GOP demagogues who spew xenophobia? Where is the effort to make the House of Representatives a little more immigrant-friendly?

Unfortunately, the immigrants' rights movement has been very myopic, planning mostly for the next battle in Congress instead of who gets sent to Congress on Election Day.

Even now that the Group of Eight is down to five, now that Syria, the federal budget and the debt ceiling have become bigger priorities than immigration in Congress, some "Dreamers" are still saying "Si Se Puede/Yes We Can," and lobbying for comprehensive immigration reform this year.

It's not realistic. I admire their tenacity and energy, but I wish they would apply it to the 2014 midterm elections and trying to change the composition of the next Congress. When a few House members "get primaried" or defeated in the general election by immigrant rights advocates, that's when we'll see comprehensive immigration reform.

What we need is a national campaign to rid the country of elected xenophobia demagogues. But unfortunately with the way things are going, it may take a long while.

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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