Republicans have officially taken power after having a fairly decisive victory in the midterm elections, expanding their margins in the House and retaking the Senate. This brings with it, however, the responsibility to govern and finally modernize an outdated immigration system that continues to undermine our economy.
Will Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates McConnell: GOP should focus on future, not 'rehash' 2020 Hoyer: Democrats 'committed' to Oct. 31 timeline for Biden's agenda MORE (R-Ky.) make progress where the previous Congresses failed so poorly, or will those who embody the "deport-them-all" stance, primarily Tea Party firebrands like Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingGOP brawls over Trump on eve of first Jan. 6 hearing Pence to visit Iowa to headline event for congressman Former Steve King challenger on rural voters in GOP states: 'They hate Democrats' MORE (R-Iowa), lead the new GOP majority?
The GOP's stance on immigration hasn't been encouraging over the past few years: favoring a government shutdown in protest of immigration; passing measures to revoke President Obama's deportation relief for Dreamers; taking a hard stance against refugee children who were escaping sex trafficking and death in Central America.
Despite the backing of a broad coalition of advocates, unions, business and law enforcement, and with Democrats willing to make concessions like doing the reform piecemeal, the Tea Party has repeatedly closed the door on tackling any mechanisms to the immigration system.
By refusing to stand up to the Tea Party, the Speaker and his lieutenants continue to take their policy cues from the extreme right within the GOP.
For years now, reasonable Republicans have been fighting the Tea Party element of their party — and usually losing. GOP leadership continues to be undermined not just on policy, but also on power as Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertHouse passes bill to end crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally Security forces under pressure to prevent repeat of Jan. 6 MORE (R-Texas) challenged Boehner for the speakership.
Lack of control by moderate members over the GOP conference has led to constant games of brinksmanship that not only result in bad politics, but also in a dysfunctional government that no longer serves the interest of the American people.
When Congress cannot legislate, it is up to the president to enforce current laws in compliance with our Constitution and values to keep families together.
There's a reason why Congress is still so unpopular: They haven't been able to get anything done in years, and the biggest change in immigration had to happen over their heads because the Tea Party was unable to have an adult discussion. Obama must be ready to use his pen again should Congress fail to take legislative action in 2015.
With 2016 around the corner, immigration will be a prominent issue among presidential candidates. Both sides will need to confront this, especially as a growing Latino electorate continues to support executive action on immigration and a path to citizenship for a new generation of Americans.
It's no secret that the GOP performs poorly with minority outreach: whether it was Mitt Romney with an incredibly awkward arm around some young black youth, singing "Who Let the Dogs Out" and barking, or the revelation that Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the majority whip, spoke to a white supremacy group in 2002. Scalise has since apologized: points for trying, but not much more.
With the new year beginning, it's the perfect time for Republican leadership to regain control over policy and procedure in the legislative branch. They would be able to replace the president's executive action with a permanent legislative solution that will address all components of our immigration system; while the need and ability is obvious, what remains to be seen is whether or not they have the will.
Vargas is co-director of the DREAM Action Coalition and a national activist for immigration reform.