If Immigration Reform Dies

In a post urging Republicans to kill immigration reform, Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry claim that, if “Republicans take the Senate and hold the House in 2014, they will be in a much better position to pass a sensible immigration bill.” Wonkblog pushes back:

The odds that Republicans would go anywhere near immigration reform in 2015 after they painfully, anxiously killed it in 2013 are vanishingly low. But let’s say, hypothetically, they did. It’s easy enough to imagine the Democratic — and Hispanic — response: If Democrats win the White House again in 2016 and increase their numbers in the House and Senate, they will be in a much better position to pass a sensible immigration bill.

That’s the thing about “later” The other side has a vision of it, too.

Waldman contrasts GOP opposition to Clinton’s and Obama’s healthcare bills with GOP opposition to immigration reform:

Those two efforts at health care reform were always understood as a conflict between a Democratic administration seeking a longtime Democratic goal, and Republicans in Congress trying to stop them. It was reported like a sporting event: Clinton loses, Republicans win; Obama wins, Republicans lose. Immigration, on the other hand, has been reported largely as a battle within the Republican party. President Obama, knowing full well that anything he advocates immediately becomes toxic for most Republicans, has been using a lighter touch when it comes to public advocacy for comprehensive reform. I’m not saying he hasn’t been pushing for it, but he hasn’t done the all-out, campaign-style barnstorming tour that would help turn it into a purely Democrats-versus-Republicans issue. The story has always been, “What will the Republicans do?” and if reform goes down, the headlines won’t read, “Obama Defeated on Immigration Reform,” they’ll read, “Republicans Kill Immigration Reform,” with subheadings like “Danger ahead for GOP as Latino voters react.”

Those headlines got more likely today. Brian Beutler reports that “John Boehner stated a specific policy preference Tuesday that will alienate the entire Democratic Party if he adheres to it, and thus doom the reform effort”:

“It’s clear from everything that I’ve seen and read over the last couple of weeks that the American people expect that we’ll have strong border security in place before we begin the process of legalizing and fixing our legal immigration system,” Boehner said outside the Capitol Monday afternoon. … [Boehner’s statement] amounts to a de facto endorsement of the conservative view that any steps to legalize existing immigrants should be contingent upon implementation of draconian border policies. As is Boehner’s custom, it also eschews the word “citizenship,” suggesting that even if Democrats agree to a trigger, he won’t guarantee that it would be aimed at a full amnesty program, and, thus, eventual voting rights for immigrants already in the U.S.

Yglesias dismisses complaints about immigration reform’s border security measures:

The more nonsensical argument I’ve been hearing takes the Congressional Budget Office’s conclusion that the Gang of 8 bill would cut unauthorized migration in half and appends the word “only” to it. Get it? Immigration reformers say their reform bill will secure the border, but in fact it will only cut unauthorized migration in half relative to the current policy baseline. But of course not passing the immigration bill just leaves us with the current policy, which (by definition!) doesn’t cut unauthorized migration at all relative to the current policy baseline. So disappointment about the border security potency of the bill can’t actually be the reason for not passing it. The reason for not passing it would have to be what it plainly is—hostility to creating a path to citizenship for current unauthorized residents of the country that’s so intense that it outweighs other possible benefits of the bill.