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Bill Press: Immigration wimps

Greg Nash

This is not complicated: There will be no immigration reform legislation this year. 

Why? Because a minority of House Republicans believe that doing anything about immigration would only hurt them in this year’s Republican primaries. And under Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the minority rules.

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No, this is not complicated. But how we reached this point in the debate over immigration reform says a great deal about the lack of direction in today’s Republican Party. 

Only a year ago, Republicans were the loudest voices for immigration reform. After watching the GOP share of the Latino vote sink from 44 percent in 2004 to 27 percent in 2012, many party leaders realized they had to do a better job of reaching out to the fastest-growing share of the electorate. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) even warned that Republicans were “in a demographic death spiral” and would fail to win the presidency again if their party were seen as blocking immigration reform.

For a brief period, things looked promising. In June 2013, thanks in part to the leadership of Graham and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill with a vote of 68-32, with the support of 14 Republicans. But any hopes for final passage died when Boehner announced he wouldn’t even bring the Senate bill up for a vote in the House.

Early this year, however, it looked like immigration reform might be coming back from the dead: Boehner hired former McCain staffer Rebecca Tallent, and the House GOP leadership released a set of principles as the starting point for immigration legislation. That’s when stuff hit the fan. 

Conservative organizations flooded the Capitol with angry phone calls. Tea Party members raised hell. Weekly Standard founder Bill Kristol and others warned that any action on immigration reform would hurt the party in 2014. Better to wait till 2015, they insisted. 

And then, just as fast as he had flipped-flopped on immigration in the past, Boehner flipped backwards. He did a 180 and pulled the plug again — and he tried to blame it on President Obama. 

“Listen, there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws,” he said. Which is a joke, because Obama has put more guards on the border, deployed more drones, built more miles of fence and deported more illegal immigrants than any other U.S. president. 

Even for Boehner, his cop-out on immigration is a stunning failure of leadership. Yes, he’s putting what’s good for his party ahead of what’s good for the country. But politicians do that all the time. What’s more shocking is that his assessment of what’s good for his party is dead wrong. 

Why will it be any easier for the GOP to pass immigration reform in 2015? By then, we’ll be smack into the presidential campaign of 2016, where the Republican Party will once again be left out in the cold when it comes to Latino voters. How low does their share of the Hispanic vote have to go before they get the message? The time to act on immigration reform is now.

 

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of The Obama Hate Machine.