The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Hispanic media unlikely to be swayed by GOP half-measures on immigration

In their quest to break up immigration reform into pieces, House Republicans are pushing a measure that’s expected to be called the “Kids’ Act,” which would offer a path to citizenship to the DREAMers who were brought here illegally by their parents. The idea appears to be to dispel the notion that GOP opposition to a path to citizenship isn’t all that heartless, and doesn’t apply to those who did not break the rules of their own accord. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has said this is “an issue of decency, of compassion.”

But the “Kids Act” may not be having the desired effect, if today’s scathing editorial in La Opinion, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States, is any indication. The White House is grabbing on to this editorial, and for good reason. It notes that the House GOP solution is unacceptable, because it falls well short of offering a path to citizenship, and it explicitly singles out Cantor’s claim of “compassion” and “decency” for criticism, noting that Republicans are clearly feeling the need to demonstrate those traits:

This change in attitude responds to pressure for the House version of immigration reform to contain at least some legalization component. It is also a political strategy to place an unacceptable proposal on the table, exclusively legalizing a limited group of people, in hopes of provoking opposition from the Democrats, who could then be portrayed as betraying the Dreamers.
In reality, using Cantor’s own words, it is cruel and indecent to think that the young Dreamers would be satisfied with a measure that protects themselves but simultaneously deports their parents.
Likewise, it is the height of hypocrisy to posture oneself as representing family integrity, while heartlessly promoting actions that divide the family home, whose human worth knows no borders.
The only aspect worth rescuing in this proposal is a strategic speculation that it might foster conciliation with the Senate measure, and that in the end the Senate’s principles, which are far more just, will prevail.
For now, it is recommended to keep a close watch and be very cautious the next time the House leadership talks about decency and compassion.

A couple of key points here. First, note the close attention being paid to process. As I noted here the other day, the Hispanic media is very aware of all the procedural ins-and-outs of this debate, and fully understands that in process terms the prospects for comprehensive reform rest entirely on the House GOP leadership.

Second, note the extreme skepticism about House GOP intentions towards Latinos. If the idea behind the “Kids Act” is to demonstrate that Republicans are responsive to the plight of at least some undocumented immigrants, the Hispanic media doesn’t appear likely to accept it. Instead, the message in this editorial is: Beware the GOP’s true intentions towards Latinos.

What this seems to show again is that GOP efforts to embrace reform — but without citizenship, so as not to alienate the base — are unlikely to work. Polls have already shown that another one of the preferred GOP means to accomplishing this — embracing the idea of sub-citizenship legal status, but not citizenship — pleases no one. In the same vein, embracing citizenship just for the DREAMers probably won’t sway the Hispanic media all that much.

Meanwhile, a new Post poll on immigration is getting a bit of attention on the right because it finds a slim majority wants to break up the Senate bill, while only a small minority wants to pass it as is. But the same poll also finds that 66 percent of Hispanics support the Senate bill, and that 83 percent of Hispanics would be disappointed if House Republicans fail to pass reform with a path to citizenship.

So maybe this “Kids Act” gambit isn’t cut out for political success.