I’m finding it interesting watching Republicans squirm their way through the immigration issue – an issue which has placed the party in a definite quandary.
Under better circumstances, Republicans would have loved nothing more than rounding up all 11 million undocumented immigrants and their families, throwing them on cattle cars and shipping them out of the country as a means of resolving the immigration problem. Breaking up families and deporting children who have never known any home other than the one which they were born into has never seemed to present much of a problem for Republicans. Also, the action would satisfy the frantic xenophobic needs of their base.
Was it not a few months ago that the Republican answer to immigration reform was the Romney plan – self-deportation? The idea was to make life as miserable and ugly as one could for millions of people and thereby leaving them no choice other than willingly leave the country. Well, that or slit their own throats.
But that plan is no longer viable because Republicans have finally come to learn that changing demographics makes the Hispanic vote essential if they’re at all serious about winning the White House again. President Obama garnered 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012. Treating millions of Hispanics as worthless cattle could not possibly help a political party win favor with that demographic.
Enter the great Cuban-American savior, Marco Rubio who has a bit of dilemma on his hands. On the one hand he must propose legislation on immigration that is looked upon favorably by Hispanic voters while at the same time keeping happy the Tea Party bigots who were instrumental in propelling him to electoral victory in 2010. This in part helps explain Rubio’s response to the leaked White House’s draft immigration proposal.
“It’s a mistake for the White House to draft immigration legislation without seeking input from Republican members of Congress,” Rubio said. “President Obama’s leaked immigration proposal is disappointing to those of us working on a serious solution. The President’s bill repeats the failures of past legislation. It fails to follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders, creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally, and does nothing to address guest workers or future flow, which serious immigration experts agree is critical to preventing future influxes of illegal immigrants.”
Aside from the obvious lies in Rubio’s statement (e.g. border security has never been higher and the Obama administration has deported a record 1.5 million undocumented immigrants in the last four years), the statement also highlights the fact that there is nothing that this president can or cannot do that could ever satisfy Republicans. If Obama fails to lay out a proposal for immigration reform, he is criticized for lack of leadership. If he does present such a proposal, he is accused of partisan politics.
Be that as it may, here’s the real problem facing Rubio and Republicans in proposing immigration reform. If they present a pathway to citizenship for those 11 million undocumented immigrants, the fear is that few of the votes by these new citizens would ever go their way. The danger for Republicans is having Hispanics see through their hallow attempt at currying favor with them by proposing half-assed immigration legislation that ensures that undocumented illegals remain in a special residency status that would make citizenship near impossible.
As for Rubio’s own qualifications as a reformer, keep in mind that after Castro’s rise to power, Cubans who arrived in America as illegals, were protected by the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act passed in 1966. The Act gives all Cuban refugees who entered the country after 1959 a legal right to residency. It also provides Cubans a quick and painless way to citizenship – one which no other immigrant is afforded.
Rubio’s (and for that matter, Republican’s) chances in 2016 hinge on his ability to convince Hispanics that he is serious about immigration reform all the while giving the Tea Party the anti-immigrant rhetoric they demand. Good luck to that.
Corrected that last part on Rubio’s parents. They in fact arrived in the U.S. in 1956 by way of legal immigration.
Thanks to E.A. Blair for pointing out my error in claiming that Rubio’s parents were illegal immigrants at the time of their arrival. They were not.
The Marco Rubio source photograph is a U.S. government work and within the public domain.