The GOP builds a fence on immigration

I want to talk very briefly about numbers, including the numbers one and 600,000.

Since 2012, more than 600,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. as children and are undocumented have come forward to give their fingerprints to the federal government. They have paid $465 each to have their backgrounds checked, and they have submitted transcripts and records to show both that they have lived here for at least five years and that they meet the educational requirements among other requirements to apply to the DACA program and have their cases individually reviewed.

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DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative announced by President Obama in 2012 that covers DREAMers; young immigrants who grew up in our neighborhoods, attended our schools and live in our families, but do not have visas, and therefore, do not have permission to live and work here. 

More than 600,000 have paid their fees and gotten temporary permission to work and live in the U.S., which must be renewed with a new application and fees periodically. It is a program that has worked very successfully for more than two years. 

In 2012, voters overwhelmingly reelected the president who crafted and implemented the DACA program and rejected the candidate who threatened to end the program and deport the DREAMers. 

Just one year ago, as Republicans headed off to their annual retreat, we had high expectations that the Republican majority in the House would allow a new and workable law to be voted on in the House to address legal immigration, border security, and the disposition of long-time U.S. residents like the DREAMers. 

Republican leaders unveiled a set of principles they called their “immigration standards,” which, among other things, called for the legalization of young immigrants — DREAMers — like those who have applied for DACA. It would have given them citizenship in just a matter of years.

At the time, just one year ago, House Republicans said, “One of the great founding principles of our country is that we do not punish children for the mistakes of their parents.” 

And the GOP document went on to talk about the DREAMers who, “through no fault of their own,” are here and “know no other country.”

Now those “standards” and those DREAMers have gone out the window. Republicans failed to galvanize around their immigration “standards” but have galvanized around the one “issue” that truly unites all Republicans: being against what Obama is for. 

The Republicans now say the DREAMers should not be here. And they say they oppose any plan that treats a non-criminal immigrant — even the spouse, parent, or child of a U.S. citizen or soldier — any differently from a violent criminal for the purposes of deportation.  

It defies logic, except as a short-term meal of red meat to the wing of the party that opposes immigration and to the much larger contingent that opposes Obama. 

But the numbers that really matter this year are 218 and 60 and 67 and 270. 

The Republicans needed 218 votes in the House to pass the amendment to deport the DREAMers and they got that without any room to spare. More Republicans crossed party lines — 26 on the amendment named for Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) — than crossed party lines when we passed the DREAM Act in the House in 2010 — 8 Republicans. 

But the number that matters next is 60 — the number the Republicans need in the Senate to pass these same measures to play around with the budget of the Department of Homeland Security.  That is quite a bit harder. Not even Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) is optimistic.

And 67 — the number of senators that Republicans need to override a presidential veto — that is simply out of reach.

But there is one other crucial number the Republicans need to keep in mind: 270.

That is the number of Electoral College votes any Republican needs to someday occupy the White House.

That is the number that Republican actions on immigration are putting out of reach for themselves for a very long time to come. 

By getting beaten by a 3-1 margin among U.S. citizens who are Latinos, Asians, and allies of the immigrant community — and supporters of basic American decency and justice — Republicans are building a giant fence around the White House with themselves on the outside. 

We are seeing the Republican Party commit suicide on a national scale in this Congress. Even as a Democrat, it is hard to watch.

Gutiérrez has represented Illinois' 4th Congressional District since 1993.