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Opinion One of MAGA’s biggest fantasies faces a brutal reality check

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) on Capitol Hill on Jan. 10. (Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Republicans have long insisted that a GOP-controlled House would not vote on anything related to immigration until the border was “secure.” This vow embodies a larger, MAGA-approved message: A GOP House will wield absolute control over the immigration debate. The border will be secured on Republican terms only, with no compromises on “amnesty.” The party’s over, “open borders Democrats”!

This little fantasy is now getting a serious reality check. And it’s coming from among Republicans themselves — on two fronts.

First, Rep. Nancy Mace (S.C.) warned this week that House Republicans should forget about passing a bill that’s focused solely on border security, which Republicans had planned for a vote. Mace declared the only way forward on immigration is to negotiate with the Democratic-controlled Senate on a bigger package.

“It will be very hard to do immigration again — it will never pass the Senate, if we’re only talking border security,” Mace told The Post’s Leigh Ann Caldwell.

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Mace said her district would benefit from letting more migrants work here legally, and she warned against “ignoring” the full range of immigration challenges the country faces. She derided the border-only bill as “tone deaf.”

That’s no small thing. Mace, a lapsed MAGA devotee, is telling fellow Republicans that “securing the border” in isolation and on their own terms, as a real-world policy goal, is basically nonsensical and will never happen.

The second reality check came in this Punchbowl News report, which says House Republicans are postponing a vote on that border-only bill. As Punchbowl notes, GOP leaders are “still trying to round up support” for that and another border bill, meaning they don’t have the votes for it right now.

The border bill in question appears to be a remarkably radical proposal. According to an analysis by numerous immigration groups, it would require the Homeland Security secretary to close the border entirely to all asylum seekers unless they were all either detained or returned to wait in Mexico for their hearings.

Tom Jawetz, a former senior DHS lawyer, notes that the bill would effectively close down the ability of asylum seekers to have their cases heard, because detaining or returning all such migrants to Mexico is operationally impossible.

“It’s very clear the goal of the bill is to end asylum indefinitely, by setting up conditions the government could never possibly meet,” Jawetz told me.

What this proposal shows is that GOP ideas of “border security” often exist in a land of make believe. Here’s the reality: Migrants have a legal right to apply for asylum. Many arriving are unaccompanied children. Because we aren’t detaining or expelling all of them, honoring that legal right inevitably means many will be released into the interior. This bill envisions a kind of border security nirvana where none of these complexities need to be acknowledged.

But now that House Republicans must vote on actual proposals to realize their vision, suddenly that isn’t so easy to do. Even if this bill does eventually pass the House, as it very well might, Mace’s reality blast strongly suggests that moderate Republicans will be reluctant to vote on it and fear Democratic attacks over its extremism.

What’s more, the bill would apply to migrants fleeing authoritarianism or communism, which might be problematic for some House Republicans. In fact, in addition to Mace, other Republicans have expressed doubt, such as Reps. Tony Gonzales (Tex.) and Maria Elvira Salazar (Fla.).

Finally, as Mace rightly noted, it’s dead on arrival in the Senate anyway. Republicans who say they want “border security” will have to compromise.

One possibility might be the bill negotiated by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), which would legalize 2 million “dreamers” brought here as children and rationalize our asylum system along lines that Republicans should be able to accept.

The truth is that some Republicans do want to fix certain aspects of the system — for instance, by fixing the farmworkers visa program. This, along with reforming the asylum system, could form the basis of real talks. Will the House GOP leadership allow this to happen?

It might be that House Republicans can reasonably hope passing a wildly extreme border bill could increase their leverage in such talks. Democrats might ultimately feel pressure to accept very onerous security measures in exchange for reforms they want.

But the bottom line is this: If and when House Republicans do enter into such negotiations, they will have to seriously consider asylum reform. They will have to seriously consider “amnestying” dreamers and other undocumented immigrants.

House Republicans can impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas 500 times. They can tour the border three times a week in their preposterous faux-military garb. They can run a gazillion ads that depict the border as a scene out of the dystopian mass-immigration novel “The Camp of the Saints” or a scene from the hypermilitarized “Call of Duty” video game.

But, as Mace just informed her GOP colleagues in no uncertain terms, the real-world complexities of this debate can’t be dodged forever.

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