GOP must lead on immigration, not be dragged by the far right

While the Supreme Court has ruled on a separate but similar education issue, explicitly stating that the children were blameless and should not be penalized for being brought into the country, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), former Republican vice presidential nominee, and most Republicans in the House disagree.

King’s amendment to H.R. 2217, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, curtailed prosecutorial discretion that ensure the agency’s immigration enforcement resources are targeted and prioritized. The reaction from Latino organizations, Democrats, and the White House was swift, as they called it an attack on a sensible policy that enables young adolescents with deep roots in the United States the opportunity to live without fear of deportation and to continue to give back to their communities and country.

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Cantor voted for the amendment even though he has said Dreamers should be allowed to eventually become citizens. Vulnerable Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) also voted for the amendment, despite telling constituents in February that undocumented young people should be given a path to citizenship.

The fact that the amendment passed the House of Representatives demonstrates a lack of control by Republican leadership that is allowing the chamber to be whipped by fringe voices. Further, Republicans are completely inaccurate to call the President’s policy not to deport dreamers “administrative amnesty” as the Supreme Court recognizes the executive branch’s prosecutorial discretion on immigration matters.

King’s amendment would deport DREAMers, the most sympathetic, accomplished and assimilated characters thrust into the heart of the immigration debate.  This goes beyond mere bad PR and poor decision-making: it harkens back to an era of “Self-Deportation” of not so long ago.  If Republicans go down that same road and reconstruct the bubble that popped so violently last November, they will get even worse results in 2014 and 2016. But leadership can still act on comprehensive immigration reform.

Vargas is director of DREAM Action Coalition and a national activist for the DREAM Act.