GOP leadership threatens the party's future by blocking immigration reform

As the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in an overwhelming bipartisan vote reached the House of Representatives, the opponents of immigration reform have tried to disguise their plan to kill the bill by taking up a series of narrow, piece-meal bills that supposedly seek progress, but are in fact thinly disguised efforts to slash and burn real reform.

The Senate bill is a legislative solution that will help grow our economy, create more jobs and bring 11 million people out of the shadows. The bill not only enjoys broad, bipartisan consensus in the Senate, but also has the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the largest employee unions, while businesses from Silicon Valley to the industrial heartland are clamoring for an immigration system that satisfies the real-world needs of an America with aging demographics and anemic economic growth.

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More importantly, poll after poll have shown that a large majority of Americans support immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  The Senate's solution contains the components of reform that Americans want.

So what's the problem?  Why won't Speaker John Boehner (R-ohio) simply allow an open vote in the House for a comprehensive bill with a path to citizenship? There is already a   bipartisan majority in the House that supports an approach including citizenship for the 11 million, yet GOP leadership refuses to give the American people a vote.

Call them anti-immigrants, nativists or dead-enders, the far right of the Republican Party sees immigration reform as a threat.  Instead of voting for the Senate bill (or some amended version of it), there is instead a not-too-hidden plan embraced by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R) and others, to kill comprehensive immigration reform.

Simply put, Goodlatte and his colleagues seek the creation of a permanent underclass of workers with no chance to earn American citizenship.

Speaking at a summer constituent town hall, Goodlatte said he would not support a “special pathway to citizenship,” by which he reportedly meant the Senate's 13-year plus process leading from qualifying for a worker visa to applying for a green card and eventually earning citizenship.

Goodlatte is apparently suggesting that Congress block millions of people who are working, paying taxes and raising their families from joining the ranks of the citizenry and vote for their own representatives – even after 13 years of difficult procedural steps, paying fines and waiting in line.

This plan doesn’t reflect American values or the will of the American people.

Equally unacceptable is Goodlatte’s so called SAFE Act,  which stands for “Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act.”  The SAFE Act represents a doubling down of the Arizona anti-immigrant law SB-1070 now declared largely un-constitutional. This multibillion-dollar “boondoggle,” as the Cato Institute called it, would turn every law enforcement officer in the country into an immigration enforcement agent.  It would create a national police state with prescribed jail time for people stopped in the street without their papers.

Say hello to a national racial profiling regime, and adios to due process.

Common sense calls for comprehensive solutions to complex problems.  And as national polling shows, Americans naturally understand that. The death-by-a-thousand cuts approach taken up by today's opponents of immigration reform assumes that people – and in particular Latinos – will not clue in to this sham: a badly disguised effort to torpedo immigration reform with a series of harsh, enforcement-only actions that delight the far right cohorts but have zero chance of conferencing with the Senate and eventually being signed into law by President Obama.

Seven years after President Bush's effort to enact immigration reform was blocked by his own Republican allies in the Senate, the House Republicans are playing with existential fire.  While Gallup shows more than 70 percent support for earned citizenship among all Americans, Latinos back this approach by even bigger margins, close to 80 percent according to a recent Latino Decisions survey.

As we look ahead to the 2014 and 2016 elections, mainstream Republicans must decide if they are willing to gamble control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House in order to please far right extremists. All of this while ignoring the will of the American people, foregoing the chance to make inroads with the fastest growing voting bloc in the country and losing the opportunity to make this country stronger and our economy boom.

Espuelas is host and managing editor of "The Fernando Espuelas Show" broadcast on the Univision America Network, as well as on univision.com and at espuelas.com.

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