As immigration reform bounces back and forth over the border between the House and Senate, the latest moves on Capitol Hill by GOP leaders seem destined to torpedo any substantive progress.
In other words, obstructionism remains the middle name of the Grand "O" Party. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the apparent poster child of the GOP when it comes to all things related to immigration, has taken on this mantle from his superiors, almost unwillingly, as if he were being asked to walk a tightrope without a net. It is also difficult to grab in desperation for a water bottle when you are using both arms and hands to maintain balance, lest you fall from grace to an ignominious end.
But Rubio, realizing that he was backed into a corner by the old white guard of his party, has not taken his position as forced upon him without a fight. On a quiet Sunday morning two months back, Rubio released the following statement: “I’m encouraged by reports of an agreement between business groups and unions on the issue of guest workers. However, reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature.” Rubio had quickly backtracked on his prior commitments.
At that time after months of work, Rubio had counseled that everything to date had been merely a work in process… “a healthy public debate that includes committee hearings and the opportunity for other senators to improve our legislation with their own amendments." He suggested that the current state of affairs should “serve as a starting point for discussion..." and concluded that “this process cannot be rushed or done in secret.” As if two centuries and two terms as president were not enough time to find some workable solution for a nation built upon the toil and sweat of immigrants?
Why do I suddenly hear Native American voices about me lamenting, “Oh, my poor white brother?” That was a beloved quote from the satirical “Firesign Theatre” group of the Sixties. In that vein, all that is needed is a new treaty arrangement… “sign there… Civilization, HO!!!” It seems that these omniscient comedians from 45 years ago actually fastened upon the legal machinations used by modern-day Republicans and other conservatives in power to block competition and innovation, the lifeblood of our country. It’s time to move on.
And what is the latest statement from the GOP’s stalwart immigration reformist? Rubio admitted to Fox News this week that he does not have the necessary 60 votes in the Senate to defeat a filibuster effort from Democrats on his latest rendition of truly needed reform. What is his “latest rendition," you might ask? Did he incorporate any of the progressive measures espoused by Bush during his tenure in office? No – he dropped those like hot potatoes. Instead, Rubio wants – get this – stricter border control and more laws that are impossible to enforce.
And these ideas come from a presidential hopeful within the Republican ranks? “Politico” writes that Rubio knows tighter border control is needed in the bill if he is ever to garner support from his own party members. Democrats want to see more details. “Sen. Rubio and others are exploring strengthening the border security provisions, and we’re open to that,” said Sen. (D-N.Y.). “We welcome it, actually.”
What are a few details? According to “Politico,” Rubio has teamed up with Sen. (R-Texas) on a sweeping amendment that would require “stricter border patrol provisional ‘triggers’ before registered immigrants are allowed to apply for green card status. His amendment would require 100 percent operational control of the Southern borders and that 90 percent of illegal border crossers be apprehended. It would also require 100 percent border surveillance, or situational awareness, of each one-mile segment of the Southern border and installment of a national E-Verify system before registered immigrants can pursue green cards.”
But even the best hand=wrangling in the Senate may be a colossal waste of time. Four Republican senators, Ted Cruz of Texas, of Alabama, Mike Lee of Utah and of Iowa, penned a “Dear Colleague” letter Tuesday afternoon, specifying their criticisms of the proposed bill, saying it would give “immediate” legalization to undocumented immigrants without adequate border security and does not repair the legal immigration system.
The House will be no picnic, as well. Ezra Klein of the “Washington Post” writes, “Wherever the Senate bill ends up, the House bill will end up well to the right of that. It will have to end up to the right of that both for political reasons — Speaker needs to show his members they’re getting something — and for the simple reason that the average House members has beliefs that are further to the right than the sixtieth senator.” An ugly fight is expected, producing nothing that any self-respecting Democrat would ever give the time of day.
Will the “Gang of Eight,” the name attached to Rubio’s committee work group, walk the tightrope and find a way not to alienate both Republicans and Democrats? Advocates for meaningful and lasting immigration reform have their doubts.
Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, recently opined that, “The idea that the most reviled institution in America would be trusted to make a judgment as to whether the border was secure enough that 11 million people could pursue citizenship would politicize and threaten a core element of the legislation.” Jeff Hauser, an AFL-CIO spokesman, added that, “This is going to be a fringe effort led by fringe freshman senators.”
And there you have it – the Old Guard blocks, while the young among us try to get something done. As I once wrote, “So what’s it going to be: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’ or ‘Keep Out!’ or some other expletive-filled abusive concoction?” Nothing much has changed. Lean Forward!
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