Last Friday the GOP-controlled House allocated $694 million, the so-called Border Bill, that “significantly toughens up laws against young undocumented immigrants and children coming from Central America.” This legislation is basically a thumb in the eye against the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) memorandum, but the Border Bill will die an undignified, quiet death in the Senate, and never had a prayer of actually passing.
As Sahil Kapur of Talking Points Memo pointed out, “The goal is to give Republicans political cover to tell their constituents they acted on the border crisis when they go home for recess.” It’s another meaningless bit of political theater from a party that’s running out of time on the immigration issue with the Latino community.
However, America is a nation of change; often violent, always messy, our history is dynamically tragic but oddly hopeful. We’ve expanded our borders (mostly through conflict) but along with territorial expansion, those who have access to our democratic process, women and minorities in particular, has increased. Though we still have work to be done, eventual inclusion, as opposed to permanent exclusion, is the inevitability of the American experience.
So as usual the GOP finds itself in the awkward position of standing in the way of progress while at the same time trying to co-opt certain facets of said progress for their own political survival. Immigration reform, particularly that of undocumented Central American immigrants, will continually get worse for the GOP.
Because immigration reform is an even larger elephant in the room than the Grand Old Party wants to admit. For a party that’s used white fear of minorities and independent women in order to maintain political hegemony immigration reform, especially for poor people of color, is a remote proposition at best. In fact earlier this week Speaker Boehner repeated the tired ass lie of President Obama waiving the work requirements for welfare which is textbook Southern Strategy, a political strategy based on racial/class division.
The GOP’s problem with immigration reform, besides the not so subtle racial implications, is the way the party, and the conservative movement, has constructed its political ideology: everything exists in a zero-sum reality. If one side gains another naturally loses. A rising tide doesn’t lift all boats; it raises some and lowers others to be dashed against the rocks. So if an undocumented immigrant gains a path to citizenship, or amnesty, it takes away something to from those who already have those rights.
Thus undocumented immigrants aren’t people caught up in a system that is badly in need of reform. As Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA) said, “Illegal aliens are criminals and we need to treat them as such.” This might be an equivocation, but there’s a difference between someone who crosses an artificial border so she and her family can have a shot at a better life and someone who commits an act of violence.
By reforming a broken system we open up an avenue for these so-called “criminals” to be reclassified as immigrants. In effect, their humanity is restored, and thus they take a step close to achieving equality. But since the Republican worldview doesn’t allow for this to happen without someone losing their share of the equality pie, whether economic or political, there will be no GOP-based immigration reform. There’s only so many Liberty Legos, and the GOP kids need most of ‘em for that Saint Ronnie Statue so the Caeser Chavez kids are just shit out of luck.
The Republican’s still act like a static reality is possible. “We can keep the illegals out if we just build the dang fence! It’ll work this time!” What is never considered is the absurdity of this position, or the ethical ramifications of denying people their humanity. This delusion is continually fostered by GOP leaders both for their own gain, and their own political survival. It is never challenged because acknowledging the truth, let alone speaking it those who need to hear it the most, has detrimental consequences to one’s political career. Thus John McCain, once a staunch supporter of immigration reform, became a nativist critic for his 2010 Senate re-election campaign. Marco “Cottonmouth” Rubio, once considered a frontrunner for the 2016 GOP Presidential Nomination, lost some early momentum for his inevitable 2016 Presidential run. And more recently Eric Cantor’s primary loss to economics professor Dave Brat was a major blow to one of GOP’s important voices on immigration reform in the House.
It’s just more of the same from the GOP’s “Thanks Obama!” playbook. While it won’t satisfy their constituents, who want more draconic action taken on undocumented immigrants, it will solidify Latinos more firmly into the Democratic camp even if by default. Essentially kicking the can down the road it does nothing to address the impending, and all too inevitable reality: Latinos are a growing part of America, and they’re not going away.