DC Immigration Football Game on Timeout

Posted: Nov 14, 2013 12:01 AM

House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Wednesday that the GOP leadership has no intention of going to conference committee on the Senate's comprehensive immigration bill passed in June. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy told Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles Director Angelica Salas last week that the House would not pass its immigration package this year. Not enough time.

But in Washington, there's always time for the blame game. This week, The Hill ran a two-part autopsy on immigration reform and concluded: "Both parties are responsible for the effort's demise."

Boehner wouldn't commit. His rank-and-file didn't trust President Barack Obama to enforce a new law, given the president's 2012 executive order to flout immigration law and halt the deportation of DREAM Act-eligible residents.

The White House pressed House Democrats not to reach a deal before the Senate, even though the House is the linchpin. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., told The Hill: "It is clear to me that there was no strategy on the White House's part post-Senate victory. Because the Senate victory was the strategy."

That statement confirms the right's long-standing suspicion that the left doesn't really want immigration reform, not when Democrats can use the issue to lather up anti-GOP anger among Latino voters. Obama did not deliver on his 2008 promise to push an immigration bill during his first year in office, even though Democrats controlled the White House, Senate and House during the first two years of his presidency. Only after Democrats lost the House in 2010 did that lame-duck body pass the DREAM Act to offer citizenship to children brought into the country illegally by their parents. Because supporters couldn't deliver the 60 votes needed in the Senate -- five Democrats voted no -- it tanked.

Salas told me Tuesday that both parties hold "equal responsibility" for the measure's failing. She insisted her group doesn't want to keep the issue alive to help one party bury the other.

There is a way forward. The GOP caucus has been working on piecemeal bills to address immigration reform, including its own version of the DREAM Act, the Kids Act.

The problem is, Salas noted, nothing is in writing yet. "At least show your cards," she challenged.

National Journal reported that Republicans are fighting over whether to allow DREAM "kids" to sponsor their undocumented parents for green cards. Understandably, Salas objects. "Every citizen has that right," she said.

If this Kids Act treats all citizens equally, her group would be wise to support it.

Republicans would be wise to pass a Kids Act early next year. Otherwise, their main contribution to the immigration debate will be passage of a measure to resume deporting DREAMers spared by Obama's pen. Is that the message they want to send to Latino voters?

I'd rather Americans hear the words of Kids Act supporter Eric Cantor. The House majority leader said in February, "One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents."

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