should've. House Republican leadership had put forward two principles
for immigration reform, one of which was that "specific enforcement triggers"
had to be met in order for House Republicans to advance a bill.
"Specific" was exactly the wrong word here, since this was a
fill-in-the-blank provision to be decided on later. This was the flag
that everyone was watching. The common wisdom was that if they were able
to wrangle the base on board, the triggers would be half-way reasonable
-- or at least do-able. Undocumented people would have to learn English
-- assuming they didn't already know it -- or complete high school or
an equivalent. If they didn't, then the trigger would be completely
unreasonable, like an impenetrable fence at the southern border or
something crazy, like mandatory prison sentences. If the push to pass
the bill failed, the signal was expected to be a poison pill -- a
requirement that was either so noxious that Democrats would reject it
out of hand or so technically impossible that it could never be met.
That's what everyone expected to happen. If the House killed immigration reform, that was the way it was supposed to die. No one foresaw this ignoble end:
Republicans are starting to lay the blame on President Barack Obama if
an overhaul of the nation's broken immigration system fails to become
The GOP's emerging plan on immigration is to criticize Obama as an
untrustworthy leader and his administration as an unreliable enforcer of
any laws that might be passed. Perhaps realizing the odds of finding a
consensus on immigration are long, the Republicans have started telling
voters that if the GOP-led House doesn't take action this election year,
it is Obama's fault.
"If the president had been serious about this the last five years, we'd be further along in this discussion," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, said Sunday.
And in case you don't get the message, Rep. Paul Ryan -- who'd taken the
lead on the bill -- said pretty much the same thing; "Here's the issue
that all Republicans agree on: We don't trust the president to enforce
No one expected this turn of events -- mostly because it's stupid.
What the GOP is trying to do here is blame a move the President made
back in 2012 for immigration reform's death today. In '12, Obama
announced that he would stop deporting the children of undocumented
people, basically moving forward with as much of the DREAM Act as executive power would allow. It was a case of the president doing what he could, because the Republican-obstructed congress would do nothing.
And of course, it ties into their current (and baseless)
freak out over Obama's announcement of the use of executive privileges
to advance his agenda as laid out in the 2014 State of the Union.
So the story is this: Republicans don't want to pass immigration reform,
because they don't trust the president to enforce a something that he would sign into law himself and that he himself had called for. This
is an astonishingly dumb argument and an extremely hard one to buy.
They'd have been better off going with the "specific triggers" dodge and
demanding an inescapable dome be built over Mexico and China.
But what this messaging signals is that the base will accept nothing.
Keep in mind, the "specific triggers" excuse would not only have to fool
Latino voters, but also the GOP base. It would have to be some proposal
that was at least close to acceptable to both groups and it turns out
that this is impossible. The racist base
will accept nothing short of increased enforcement and, if at all
possible, an effort to mass-deport every undocumented person in the
entire US. There is no compromise position here -- the base is so
extreme that not even the pretense of compromise is good enough, because
no compromise would be plausibly acceptable.
Which is why we get the unbelievably stupid "reform is dead because of
Obama" excuse. No one expected it, but maybe everyone should've.
[photo via Wikimedia Commons]