The news that the Congressional Budget Office found that immigration reform would dramatically reduce the deficit has deprived diehard reform foes of one of their last remaining arguments: Rewarding the “takers” would sock it to the American taxpayer.
But that hasn’t stopped foes of reform from pressing forward with still more arguments. The trouble is that in the wake of the CBO news their case looks ever more absurd and desperate.
Case in point: Ted Cruz, on the Senate floor today, made the argument that we should oppose immigration reform for the sake of undocumented immigrants. He stood before a blown-up picture of a graveyard as he solemnly eulogized on behalf of unnamed souls who had been killed crossing the border:
“No one who cares about our humanity would want to maintain a system where the border isn’t secure,” Cruz said, noting that “vulnerable women and children” are being preyed upon by drug dealers and are being “left to die in the desert.”
“This is a system that produces human tragedy,” Cruz continued. “And the most heartbreaking aspect of this gang of eight bill is it will perpetuate this tragedy. It will not fix the problem. It will not secure the borders.”
In fact, the gang of eight bill would allot billions of dollars to border security, require the Department of Homeland Security to produce a security plan, and mandate the creation of a border security commission if security benchmarks aren’t met. Democrats are also very likely to agree to Republican demands that the security plan be taken out of DHS’s hands and that its specifics be determined by Congress.
Cruz has introduced amendments to beef up the gang of eight bill’s border security measures. But make no mistake: For all his professed concern about the unnamed dead, his position, for all practical purposes, is to do nothing at all to fix the system that, by his lights, perpetuates all of the tragedy he lamented today. Cruz has introduced an amendment to strip the path to citizenship out of the bill entirely. Without a path to citizenship, we aren’t getting reform. Such amendments are designed to kill reform completely — period, full stop — yet here is Cruz, claiming that his actions are all about protecting the undocumented immigrants who would benefit from it.
Indeed, Cruz’s professed sympathy for the plight of the undocumented is particularly striking in light of his efforts to tie immigration reform’s prospects to a conservative cause that isn’t related to border security at all. He recently vowed to attach an amendment to the immigration bill that would allow states to require proof of citizenship as a condition for registering to vote, contra the Supreme Court decision striking down Arizona’s voting law.
Cruz isn’t the only one. Senator Jeff Sessions, another diehard opponent of reform, is now dismissing the CBO’s finding that reform would help the economy by arguing that any economic benefits would go to business owners, rather than the poor. As Ezra Klein dryly noted: “Sessions doesn’t typically vote against bills because the benefits accrue to business owners or because they’ll make life harder for Americans who can’t find work. Quite the opposite, actually.”
In Sessions’ case, fortunately, the true motive here is on full display. He has openly made it known that the real goal of all of his procedural objections to reform is to stall long enough to build up public opposition in hopes of killing it. As he puts it: “The longer it lays in the sun, the more it smells, as they say about the mackerel.”
Cruz, to my knowledge, hasn’t been quite this forthcoming. But it isn’t hard to figure out that his opposition to reform is about anything but “our humanity.”