Less than eight months after the House GOP Leadership embraced legalization for 11 million undocumented immigrants, the real leadership of the House — Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann and Steve King — have passed a bill that demands maximum deportations.
President Obama has already indicated that he will act to reduce the deportations of at least some of the law-abiding undocumented who would likely qualify for a path to citizenship under the Senate’s bi-partisan immigration bill.
““We have a system that runs on discretion,” University of California at Los Angeles law professor Hiroshi Motomura told Politico. “There are 11 million people in the country who in theory are not supposed to be here. Congress has funded the capability to deport maybe half a million people a year.”
Obama has already done this with the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA). As George W. Bush did before him.
There was a solution to this lack of capability: comprehensive immigration reform, which would spend tens of billions on border security while setting up a means for the law-abiding undocumented people here to begin a path to citizenship. And even after spending all that money, getting these workers in the system would save taxpayers $900 billion. That’s far more than raising the retirement age of Medicare ever would.
But Republicans have shown that they aren’t willing to consider reform as long as Obama is president. Instead they’re calling for even more deportations than Mitt Romney who lost with less of the Latino vote than John McCain who got less than George W. Bush.
Emphasizing deportations is probably a smart move in the short-term, just as supporting Prop. 187 was for California Pete Wilson was in 1994. Latinos only have a chance to sway one highly contested election this year — Colorado’s Senate race, which is why Republican Cory Gardner opposed the maximum deportation bill, even after supporting a similar one last year.
Colorado, The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent notes, is where we’ll be able to see how much the Republicans’ slide toward “Get the hell out!” will hurt them in 2016.
But here are three ways House Republicans have given the president the permission to re-prioritize deportations and allow some undocumented people to work — as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did before him.
1. They told him to do it.
When it appeared that Speaker Boehner wasn’t going to be able to pass anything to address the border crisis he’d been ranting about for weeks, he issued a statement that read, “There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.” He links to the GOP’s list of favored actions but with an implicit awareness that his power extends beyond their suggestions.
2. They’ve admitted the can’t stop him.
By voting for a bill that has no chance of becoming law to end DACA the House GOP is admitting that the president has the power to implement such a program.
3. They didn’t sue to stop DACA.
Republicans have invested much of their 2014 election strategy in a lawsuit designed to constrain the president. Though DACA has been in effect for more than two years, House Leadership decided not to sue over the program, likely fearing the political fallout. Given their votes on Friday such discretion robs them of a key argument if the president acts.
Simply put: If DACA’s wasn’t illegal, why would an expansion of DACA be?
Our priority should be deporting criminals and securing our border from those who wish America harm. That’s where America’s limited resources should go until Congress is wise enough to fix our immigration system.
[Image via @SteveKingIA]