Remember what happened in the House on Thursday when the GOP nominee releases in ad in Spanish next September that drops all the “secure the border” pablum that got him the nomination and vows to reform the immigration system in a way Democrats haven’t.
House Republicans voted to remove language that would have instructed the secretary of defense to consider allowing undocumented Americans to serve in the military from the National Defense Authorization Act by a 221-202 margin.
Every Democrat voted against the amendment.
Instead of being satisfied with the win, the anti-immigrant right attacked the small percentage of Republicans who voted with Democrats.
The defeated provision, which allows those protected by the president’s immigration executive actions to enlist, would still have fallen short of the DREAM Act, which grants full legal status to undocumented soldiers and people brought to this country as children, which was filibustered by Senate Republicans in 2010. The military portion of the DREAM Act the only expansion of the immigration system that Mitt Romney backed as he secured the GOP nomination on a policy of self-deportation.
Shockingly, it wasn’t Iowa congressman Steve King who led this effort to bolster the military and provide a reward to the undocumented willing to serve. King has been behind the House’s multiple votes to deport the law-abiding undocumented whose deportations are being delayed under President Obama’s executive actions. He’s currently focused on revoking birthright citizenship and has seen his power slightly diminished by participating in a failed coup against Speaker Boehner.
The man who marshaled a majority of Republicans to block the only hope of relief for immigrants in this Congress was Alabama congressman Mo Brooks who once said, “As your congressman on the house floor, I will do anything short of shooting [undocumented immigrants].”
You remember that after 2013’s bruising battle to pass a bipartisan reform bill in the Senate, the bill’s main backer Marco Rubio turned against it, to put it kindly. “He just decided to run from it like a scalded dog, an “influential Republican consultant” told Yahoo!.
House Republicans refused to even consider the legislation.
This is what happens when you have a House majority that does not depend on the vote of one Latino.
But even before the GOP was demographically locked into a majority that allows them to alienate majorities, the base shut down reform. In 2007, when President George W. Bush used a Democratic takeover of Congress to push immigration reform he’d ignored for six years, AM radio freaked out, conservatives revolted and John McCain pulled his own Rubio on his own bill.
King and Brooks aren’t going away. They have 220 votes, which is more than enough to elect a new speaker should Boehner decide to bring immigration reform to the floor. If Boehner were to ever be that brave and somehow survive, it would lead to scores of primary challenges and civil war throughout the party. And a Republican president who signed reform into law would face a primary challenge serious enough to disrupt his re-election.
The only hope for immigration reform is a chastened Republican Party that has lost the White House three straight times and fears it may never win again with the Latino electorate expected to double by 2030. This isn’t to say that immigration is the only issue these voters care about. But we’ve seen in California that purposely alienating new immigrants is a recipe for completely turning off new Latino voters.
But this isn’t a problem that lingers in the distant future for the GOP. Prominent GOP pollster Whit Ayers believes the party needs to win more than 40 percent of the Latino vote, up from Mitt Romney’s 27 percent in 2012 to win in 2016. Not coincidentally, Ayers works for Rubio — who he thinks has the best chance of this sort of miracle. Jeb Bush speaks fluent Spanish and says he’s lived the “immigrant experience” by marrying an Mexican woman.
Be ready. Both Rubio and Bush will be much better at making their case to Latinos than Mitt Romney was, even if they’re not brave enough to condemn Republicans for this vote or will dabble in saying they’re against “amnesty,” which has come to mean “anything Obama is for.” It would be difficult to be worse.
But they won’t be any better at getting anything done on immigration reform. House Republicans will make sure of that.
[Image by Fibonacci Blue | Flickr]