The tone-deaf party of deportation strikes again

     Immigration advocates protest outside the regional office of U.S. Immigration in Philadelphia (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    Immigration advocates protest outside the regional office of U.S. Immigration in Philadelphia (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    A popular French adage goes like this: Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. English translation: The more that changes, the more it’s the same thing.

    Case in point: the new Republican Congress, which is just as rooted in right-wing primitivism as the old Republican Congress. Its pledge to govern responsibly and cooperatively is already up in smoke – which is no surprise, of course, because these people can’t help being who they are.

    Yesterday, the House GOP voted to deport the immigrants who entered America illegally when they were children. President Obama, in a 2012 executive action, had allowed these immigrants (nicknamed “dreamers”) to stay, but the House GOP, in its bid to thwart Obama, wants to throw the dreamers out.

    In another executive action, late last year, Obama said that immigrants living here illegally for at least five years would be protected from deportation and would be eligible for work permits. But yesterday, the House GOP voted to thwart that policy as well – by seeking to ensure that the feds won’t have the money to process work permits.

    This same ‘tude was on display last summer, when the old House GOP voted to deport roughly half a million undocumented immigrants who came to America as children. The gesture went nowhere – it was blocked by the Democratic Senate – but House Republicans were fine with that, because it was just send-a-message symbolism. And yesterday’s votes will probably come to naught as well; word is, the new Senate won’t go for deportation. So, once again, we have the House GOP sending right-wing messages rather than governing responsibly.

    (A master class in governing irresponsibly: The new House GOP has attached its deportation measures to a bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security. If the chamber refuses to compromise with the Senate by Feb. 27, most Homeland employes – entrusted with fighting terrorism at home – will have to work without pay. Meanwhile, the Homeland office that processes immigrant work permits will function normally, because its workers are financed by fees, not congressional appropriations.)

    So. Are those Republicans tone-deaf or what? Are they incapable of understanding that their uncompromising hostility to Hispanics is out of sync with an increasingly diverse America? That they’re risking serious political damage by repeatedly buttressing the GOP’s image as the deportation party?

    Those are rhetorical questions.

    Speaker John Boehner insisted yesterday that GOP lawmakers have nothing against Hispanics, that they were merely trying to rein in Obama: “By their votes last November, the people made clear they want more accountability from this president. By our votes here today, we will heed their will.” That remark was a classic con job, so let’s unpack it:

    For starters, Obama has signed executive actions as a last resort – because the Republican House refuses to pass immigration reform; indeed, right-wing Republicans have blocked reform ever since President Bush sought it in 2006. Secondly, Boehner’s con about the “will” of “the people” omits this inconvenient finding: In the ’14 midterm exit polls – and remember, this was a disproportionately pro-Republican electorate – 57 percent said that illegal immigrants should be allowed to apply for legal status. The draconian option (“deported to the country they came from”) drew 39 percent.

    In other words, on the immigrant issue, the new Republican Congress is just as out of sync with the mainstream as the old Republican Congress – and just as determined to minimize the GOP’s appeal to non-whites. And just as determined to ignore the best advice of its own party leaders.

    After Mitt “self-deportation” Romney was decisively beaten in 2012 – losing 11 of 12 swing states, losing at least four of them (Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Virginia) in part because of Hispanic hostility, winning only 27 percent of Hispanic voters nationwide – Republican National Committee leaders crunched the numbers, looked at the future, and issued this warning:

    “If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence. It doesn’t matter what we say about education, jobs, or the economy; if Hispanics think that we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies. In essence, Hispanic voters tell us our party’s position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door….We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”

    What they said.


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