Arguments by anti-immigration reform pundits against a House bill have degenerated into non sequiturs. Thankfully, more and more Republican lawmakers and substantial interest groups are uniting behind an overhaul effort.
Some of these pundits argue that it would spark a major war within the GOP if the House were to pass immigration reform. But wait: If a significant majority of House members support it, why should these members fear a “war,” unless that war were to come directly from these same pundits? Is the opposition based on the fact that some oppose it? Alternatively, some in the anti-reform club still holler that the House shouldn’t pass the Gang of Eight’s bill. Well, no one is talking about doing so — so what’s the problem?
The anti-immigration crowd is expert at moving the goal posts. First, it objected to the Gang of Eight plan. Then hardline Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) confessed that he’d never agree to any earned pathway to citizenship. When the House refused to follow the Senate model, began formulating discrete bills and considered legalization (not even citizenship) for those other than DREAMers — well, that was no good, either.
But the ground is shifting under the feet of conservatives. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder joins a flock of GOP governors to urge movement:
“To be blunt, we have a dumb system,” he said during remarks on immigration, using a phrase he’d repeat a few times. “Why would we build the dumb system that we have today to say, we don’t want you here?” … Snyder said people who get “bogged down” in comprehensive vs. piecemeal are missing the point. “That’s a case of people looking for an excuse not to do something, rather than getting it done,” he said. “It’s like you’re standing right in front of the tree rather than looking at the forest.”
It’s hard to argue with that conclusion. Not coincidentally, the most successful Republicans (governors), who are likely to fill the ranks of the best 2016 contenders, are virtually unified in their support for a reform bill.
On the pro-immigration side of the ledger you have, among others, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the high-tech industry, the defense industry (worried about not attracting the best and brightest), the new chief economist of Heritage Foundation, fiscal conservatives, a segment of evangelicals, younger voters and libertarians. (You wonder what excuse Sen. Rand Paul will come up with now to avoid supporting a specific immigration bill; with an eye on 2016, he never can bring himself to vote for anything in particular.) Most of all, you have Republicans who can do math — and see it won’t be possible to be a national party without generating some appeal among nonwhite voters. The votes simply aren’t there.
We shouldn’t be surprised that there remains a gloomy and somewhat nativist trend on the right, folks who imagine that more people are bad for the economy, the country will be ruined by newcomers and new minority voters would never vote for the GOP anyway (well, likely not the GOP the anti-reformers want, for sure). It is never morning in America for that crowd.
Populated among the anti-immigration forces is a significant number of pro-retrenchment forces on national security, including many in the right-wing media. It’s not surprising that the group that wants no part of the world neither wants to engage abroad or have foreigners come here. But those who fancy themselves as internationalists on national security should be leery of hooking up with that crowd, and not only because immigration is needed for innovation in defense technology. If you want Americans to understand the U.S. has a critical leadership role in the U.S., both as a superpower and as a symbol of hope and freedom, it’s hard to make the case against keeping foreigners out, let alone rounding them up to throw them out or standing shoulder to should with some nasty anti-foreigner fringe groups.
We will see what the House comes up with. If there are a series of bills that a great number of House members can sign onto, we will once again see a remarkable turning of the tide, away from the far right that brought us the shutdown and toward a more inclusive, optimistic and reform-minded GOP.