The political skirmishing continues around the crisis unfolding at the border, and it has produced a kind of I-told-you-so satisfaction among foes of immigration reform. But it’s premature: the big picture remains that the GOP’s problems on the issue are not going away.
First, let’s state clearly that the White House initially mishandled the crisis. Administration officials leaned too hard into the idea that the kids were fleeing because of violence. They were too slow to acknowledge that the very real perception that kids can stay here — which is the result of holes in existing immigration law — is a key cause of the surge in migrations. The pressure is now intense on the administration to expedite deportations while simultaneously keeping the proceedings humane and legally sound, and the potential for further screw-ups is high.
But it’s also true that the GOP response to the crisis risks deepening the perception that Republicans have no solutions of their own on immigration. Here’s GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a key player on the issue in the House:
“Once these minors come to the U.S., they are eligible for a wide array of benefits and it will be years before their case is ever heard in court. Without immediate consequences for this illegal immigration, it will only encourage more illegal immigration and more dangerous journeys by children in order to take advantage of the administration’s failure to enforce our immigration laws.”
Meanwhile, new House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy lamented on Fox News Sunday that failure to enforce the law and secure the border are the causes of the crisis. And Ted Cruz is blaming it all on Obama’s decision not to deport the DREAMers.
In short, the Republican position is that the crisis is happening because the currently-arriving kids aren’t being deported immediately and because of Obama’s failure to secure the border and “enforce the law,” which has become shorthand for criticizing Obama’s decision to de-prioritize the deportation of DREAMers and other low-level offenders from the interior, and instead focusing resources on deportations from the border. But this raises two questions for GOP lawmakers:
1) If you believe that Obama’s current enforcement priorities are to blame for the current crisis, are you saying that we should deport all of the DREAMers?
2) If you believe the failure to deport unaccompanied minors immediately is to blame for encouraging the surge, are you saying that we should change the law to do away with the requirement that these kids get to present their case in court?
I don’t believe Republicans will answer either of those questions. And that gets to the big picture problem Republicans face, which is that their only response to the broader immigration crisis has been to hint — without saying so directly — that we need maximum deportations, as quickly as possible. Yes, the Obama administration is currently moving to expedite deportations of the new arrivals. But beyond this, Obama and Dems have passed a measure legalizing the 11 million, and Republicans cannot bring themselves to support any policies that would do that. This difference cannot be papered over by finger-pointing over the current crisis.
The terrible tale is the result of flaws in existing immigration law. But Republicans are essentially trapped in a place where they are blaming the failure to deport DREAMers for the current humanitarian crisis afflicting a whole new class of migrating children.
* WHAT’S NEXT ON IMMIGRATION? Related to the above: Bill Scher has a good column reminding us that Obama is set to take action unilaterally on immigration:
If I were a Republican, I would not be savoring Obama’s 41 percent approval rating and presuming his presidency was done. I would be worried about my party’s 29 percent approval rating, its 15 percent level of support among Latinos and Obama’s plans to take executive action on immigration reform if House Republicans don’t act by July 31. If you think Obama isn’t able to lead on immigration, after what he has done on climate and minimum wage, you haven’t been paying attention.
Whatever he does will surely fall short of what advocates want. But it will further underscore the basic contrast between the two parties on this issue.
* WHITE HOUSE URGES FAMILY-FRIENDLY POLICIES: Today Obama will roll out a raft of new proposals, a combination of public and private initiatives, designed to increase workplace flexibility for families. Meanwhile, the White House hosts a day-long summit showcasing businesses that have family-friendly policies such as maternity leave as a way to prod others to do the same, while acknowledging that the United States is one of three countries that lacks mandated leave for new mothers.
Meanwhile, the Center for American Progress has commissioned a new survey from robo-firm Public Policy Polling that finds a majority of Americans think government and workplace policies have not kept pace with the transformation of women’s roles at work, and shows overwhelming support for pay equity. All this is part of the Dems’ increasing efforts to be the only party with a real economic agenda for women, an area where Republicans appear content to leave a vacuum.
* WHITE HOUSE WORKS TO MANAGE BORDER CRISIS: To stem the flood of minors into South Texas, Department of Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson has written an open letter to parents that has been published in newspapers throughout Latin America and Hispanic outlets in the U.S. warning them children will not be eligible to stay.
As I’ve noted here, the perception that children will be allowed to stay is, in fact, a cause of the crisis.
* WHAT’S REALLY CAUSING BORDER CRISIS: The Associated Press has a must-read dive into what’s really causing the mess, detailing that it is a result of backlogged courts and a 2002 law designed to protect childrens’ welfare that results in them staying for years before facing any deportation proceedings:
Most spend about one month in the custody of the Office of Refugee and Resettlement under the Health and Human Services Department, before they are reunited with parents or other relatives in the United States…All the young immigrants who cross the border illegally are subject to deportation eventually. But it’s not a quick process….Court delays that already persist for years will grow even longer as the beleaguered system absorbs the cases for the new children immigrants. That will make the risk of speedy deportation even less likely and further fuel perceptions that crossing the U.S. border carries few immediate consequences.
The question for lawmakers who fault the administration for not deporting children quickly enough is this: Do you favor changing the law so these children can be deported right away with no chance to present their case in court?
* NO END IN SIGHT FOR GOP INFIGHTING: The Wall Street Journal has an interesting look at the ongoing GOP Senate primary in Mississippi, and how that shows the broader schism inside the Republican Party is going to persist into the future, perhaps for years:
The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found distinct differences in opinion — on immigration, the environment and the role of the tea party itself — between Republicans who identify with the tea-party movement and those who don’t. In the poll, 43% of self-identified Republicans considered themselves tea-party supporters and 43% didn’t. Those Republicans aligned with the tea party were more inclined to believe immigration hurts the country and far more skeptical of the need to address global warming.
As I’ve tried to show here and here, on economic issues, too, there is a clear Tea Party worldview on the role of government in the economy that is not held to nearly the same degree by non-Tea Party Republicans.
* THE GOP’S REAL GAME PLAN FOR 2014: The divisions in the GOP mentioned above make agreeing on anything in policy terms nearly impossible, and E.J. Dionne has a good column explaining that this is driving the real GOP game plan for 2014:
Republicans feel good about this fall’s election even though their party is sharply divided and its brand is badly tainted….Is it any wonder that the GOP’s governing game plan for the rest of the year is to do as little as possible? Since the party can’t agree to anything that would pass muster with President Obama and the Democratic Senate, it will bet that Obama’s low poll ratings will be enough for Republicans to make gains in House races and, potentially, give them control of the Senate. All of this is why 2014 will be the year of living negatively.
* AND A NEW POLICY MUST-READ: The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn rolls out his new policy vertical this morning. Bookmark it — and sign up for its emails — today. It’s already off to a good start with a Danny Vinik piece explaining that the real obstacle to a Hillary Clinton presidential run isn’t Benghazi; it’s the economy.
Indeed, the economy is going to matter far more to her chances than Clinton’s new-found wealth, or her supposedly lethal gaffes about it that got some folks so excited yesterday.