GOP’s Biannual Immigration Cliff

Looking at the April news cycle, looks like the water is warm and everyone is jumping in.

The water being the 2016 contest to be the 45thPresident of the United States of America; the jump being the biannual GOP leap off the immigration cliff.

If I was a good liberal, I would be happy with the idea of the GOP digging an even deeper hole with Latino voters.

But, since I am merely a wisecracking liberal who would like to be a small part of things getting done, I pester you with my musings. (Pathetic attempt at false humility above.)

With the exception of the clear plan offered by Jeb Bush (and Lindsey Graham’s unapologetically awesome track record), GOP candidates are for immigration reform, before they are against it, before they are for it, and then against it again.

At this point, most settle on something like, “Let’s secure the border first … Pass e-verify … Ramp up enforcement.”


What does it mean to secure the border?

Net zero migration? Done that. Drop in border apprehensions? Done. Absolutely zero border crossings? Impossible — unless we have no border to cross.

What is the impact of mandatory e-verify across the economy?

What about the agricultural sector? Isn’t three-quarters of their workforce undocumented? Wouldn’t dairy farmers be decimated by an enforcement-first approach? Why would we trust the Obama administration to carve-out agricultural enforcement of e-verify when we don’t trust him on anything else?

And, aren’t there now 55 rank-and-file Republicans who want immigration reforms alongside E-verify?

If the only thing the legislative market can bear is enforcement, the question becomes: What do you want to do with the 11 million?

Without a clear legislative agenda to answer this question, this is the math GOP candidates are faced with: Enforcement Measures + Elimination of DACA/DAPA = Self-Deportation.

Of course, no candidate will ever utter those words again.

But, this is what Latino and Asian voters will be left to believe as the majority of candidates bob and weave through immigration questions, and blast Bush (and Graham) for being “soft.”

So what to do?

First, stop talking about enforcement as if it will solve the problem. It won’t.

Second, publicly encourage McConnell and Boehner to take advantage of the opportunity to get credit for passing immigration reform. They are about to squander their moment in the immigration sun.

Third, get past the talking heads. For example, last week Rev. John Shaull of the Metro Baptist Association of Iowa wrote:

My appeal to candidates visiting our state would be to tune out the media personalities and pundits who do not really know any Iowan evangelicals, and instead spend some time reading what the Scripture has to say about immigrants, visiting our ministries that serve and reach out to our new immigrant neighbors, and seeking God’s wisdom as you formulate your positions.

There are many conservatives like Rev Shaull throughout the early primary states working to welcome immigrants and pass immigration reform.

They are the conservatives who keep the GOP from jumping off this cliff.


Originally published at on April 6, 2015.

President and CEO of National Immigration Forum and America is Better, author of There Goes the Neighborhood, host of the podcast, Only in America.

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