The GOP’s Opening Move On Immigration

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 15 2015 @ 12:32pm

President Obama to Announce Executive Action on Undocumented Immigration Issue

After yesterday’s vote in the House, Francis Wilkinson asserts that “Republicans are now openly supporting mass deportation for the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants”:

Republicans voted for what might be called “comprehensive anti-immigration reform.” As promised, they backed an amendment to a Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill to roll back President Barack Obama’s November 2014 executive action easing deportations for up to five million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Then they kept pushing. They proposed to undo Obama’s 2012 executive action easing enforcement against more than half a million “Dreamers” — undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. And to unravel the administration’s edifice of enforcement discretion, which enables government agents to prioritize enforcement against different classes of undocumented immigrants — thugs now, grandmothers later — and dates back to Obama’s first term.

Dara Lind’s take is more nuanced:

What’s interesting about these amendments is that they would return to a world where unauthorized immigrants lived in constant fear of deportation — but they don’t do much to ratchet up deportation itself.

Republicans were reportedly considering some measures that would require state and local law enforcement to turn over all unauthorized immigrants in local jails to the federal government, for example, or even to allow local police to force the federal government to take any unauthorized immigrant they’d picked up. But that wasn’t reflected in the bill they brought to the floor.

And while the bill maintains the current mandate for ICE to keep 34,000 beds in immigration detention facilities (while providing more money for detaining families and children coming over the US/Mexico border), it doesn’t force ICE to expand detention capacity for people living in the US — nor, importantly, does it actually require those beds to be filled.

So the bill isn’t exactly mass deportation.

Not all Republicans voted for the bill:

Notably, eight of the ten Republicans who voted against the funding bill did so because they rejected the attached anti-immigration provisions. Though all five amendments passed, the one amendment that received the most opposition was also the one that exclusively rolls back President Obama’s existing 2012 executive action for the undocumented community. More than two dozen Republicans opposed Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN) amendment, which strips away the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has already granted temporary legal presence and work authorization to more than 600,000 undocumented immigrants.

What [Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick] Snyder—and [Ohio’s Republican Gov. John] Kasich, to some extent—are articulating is a viewpoint on immigration from the Midwest that is different from the national debate, which tends to center on border fences and deportation. In these post-industrial states, which have seen huge population loss and economic distress in cities such as Detroit and Cleveland, Snyder and other Republican political leaders are seeing immigration as a tool to help the region “grow and thrive,” as Snyder said in his statement. Or as Karen Phillippi, deputy director of Michigan’s Office of New Americans, puts it: “The focus of our immigration policy is more on economic impact than on social justice.”

The main thrust of the Midwestern pro-immigration argument is based on two points: first, that immigrants tend to be more entrepreneurial than native-borns and therefore are job creators; and second, Midwestern colleges and universities have large numbers of foreign students, and the region wants to keep them after they graduate by opening up the number of visas available.

Sargent wants to know where the presidential contenders stand:

Does today’s House GOP stance have the support of Jeb Bush (who has explicitly called for recognizing the moral complexity of illegal immigrants’ plight); Mitt Romney (who presumably learned the pitfalls of a hard line on immigration); and Marco Rubio (who championed the Senate bill)? Spokespeople for all three have not answered emails asking that question.

(Photo: A man walks next to the U.S. – Mexico border wall on November 19, 2014 in Calexico, California. By Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)