John Boehner has an important decision to make. Does he want to be a spectacular speaker or a mediocre one? I am, of course, talking about immigration reform. He may lose his speakership and even his seat over how he moves forward but on balance, he has the chance to really shine and bring new voters, ideas and people to his party.
The United States sits at a crossroads that is reminiscent of the Civil Rights Era. We are on the threshold of giving gays access to all the rights their citizenship ought to have. We are also on the verge of fixing an immigration system that is beyond broken. We have 11 million people here living in what can only be described as in an under class. Is that what we meant by “give us your poor yearning masses longing to breath free?” God, I hope not.
And we have John Boehner. He stands alone in being able to bring the Senate immigration bill to the House floor. He is in a rough position. He doesn’t have the perks past speakers had to dispense — earmarks and whatnot (I think that is a bad idea). So he presides over a divided caucus. He wants to be speaker. He was part of an attempted coup to get Newt Gingrich out. He is not an irrational man. He is third in line to be president. My question: is it worth it?
The last immigration reform was passed in 1986 under Ronald Reagan. This is the best chance you have to change a system we all know is failing. It fails the US taxpayer by letting people work here without paying income taxes. It fails other workers (and the immigrants) by creating a black market employment system. It hurts the immigrants’ children who didn’t always ask to come here but are here. It hurts us all because we have to be party to a system we know is dreadful.
We live in a partisan and polarized world. I cannot guarantee that the better angels of our nature will reward Boehner for doing the right thing but I hope he will consider his legacy as much as he does his personal future when deciding what to do about this.