If you ever wanted to know why pro-amnesty Republicans failed to get immigration reform passed, Thursday's immigration panel at CPAC was a great place to start.
Not that the panel itself was against immigration reform. It was definitely for it. Including moderator-lobbyist Mercy Viana, the panel consisted of four pro-amnesty speakers (Viana, Helen Krieble of the Krieble Foundation, Alfonso Aguilar of Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, and the Rev. Luis Cortes), while featuring only one anti-amnesty voice (The Heritage Foundation's Derrick Morgan).
The pro-amnesty slant of the speakers, however, was not a surprise. Ever since Al Cardenas succeeded David Keene as chairman of CPAC's sponsoring organization, the American Conservative Union, CPAC organizers have pro-actively worked to shutout anti-amnesty voices. The inclusion of a Heritage speaker on this year's immigration panel was a big improvement over previous CPAC-sanctioned immigration discussions.
But for this reporter, the insight into what went wrong for pro-amnesty Republicans began well before the official program. Facebook lobbyist John Shadegg, an unidentified woman, and panelist Cortes shared some pre-game notes on where the pro-reform campaign stood, and they didn't seem to care who else in the admittedly almost empty room heard them.
Shadegg and Cortes both agreed that immigration reform was still a real possibility this year, and that Republicans could get most of what they wanted on the issue, if only House Republicans would show some leadership and pass a bill. Contrary to popular belief, Shadegg claimed, most conservatives support immigration reform, including many scholars at The Heritage Foundation. Shadegg and the unidentified woman even started listing names of Heritage staffers that they believed supported legalizing illegal immigrants.
Shadegg then explained why the Senate bill, S. 744, died in the House. The problem, Shadegg said, was that the NFIB, NAM, and other pro-reform business groups let the Chamber of Commerce's Tom Donahue negotiate for them with Senate Democrats. As a result, the final bill was nothing more than a carbon copy of the wish list unions came up with after immigration reform failed in 2007.
The first speaker on the panel, Krieble, echoed this criticism, calling S. 744 textbook "central planning" that did to immigration policy exactly what Obamacare did to health care. Instead, she pushed a "Red Card Solution," which she said offered a "market-based" solution to the problem. She did not mention, however, that her Red Card plan would involve repealing the 14th amendment so that children born to guest workers would not receive birthright citizenship.
When they spoke, Aguilar and Cortes both agreed that illegal immigrants must be offered a path to citizenship, although they disagreed as to why. Cortes claimed that few illegal immigrants would want to become citizens because they just wanted to work here legally, provide for their families, and then go back home. But Aguilar insisted that Hispanics were born conservatives who would become fiercely patriotic for their adopted country.
So which is it? Are illegal immigrants fiercely patriotic Republicans-to-be? Or are they all just dying to go back home? Cortes and Aguilar never settled this contradiction.
The reality is that there is zero political benefit for Republican in passing immigration reform while President Obama is still in the White House. Obama can simply veto any bill that isn't exactly what labor unions want and then expand his DACA program instead. If immigrant activists really want to end deportations they should focus their efforts there.