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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Finally, Immigration Reform | 01-29-2013
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The Rational Center | Commentary by John Zaring
| Tuesday, Jan 29, 2013

johnzaring2012Hey, we’re going to get some immigration reform! Woot, woot!

Outside of the economy, President Barack Obama has made comprehensive immigration reform his No. 1 domestic priority, and he’s made it clear he expects to win on this issue. Americans long ago accepted the need to change our immigration fiasco, and Obama knows that on this one, he has “We The People” on his side.

It’s time for millions of undocumented immigrants to stop living in fear, and it’s time for Republicans to stop living in denial. Mitt Romney didn’t get it; exactly one year ago this week in a Republican candidates debate, he called for illegal immigrants to “self deport” and then hired, as his top advisor, the man who wrote the “show me your papers” law in Arizona – two boneheaded decisions which surely contributed to his dubious achievement of receiving the lowest percentage of Hispanic votes for a Republican presidential candidate in the modern era: just 29 percent.

It didn’t take long for smart Republicans to come to the realization they blew it on this issue; that it cost them the presidential election. Even Fox News spinner Sean Hannity understood it. Literally the day after the election, he said, “We’ve got to get rid of the immigration issue altogether. It’s simple to me to fix it. I think you control the border first. You create a pathway for those people that are here; you don’t say ‘You’ve got to go home.’ And that is a position that I’ve evolved on. Because, you know what, it’s got to be resolved.”

On Monday some prominent national Republicans acted on Hannity’s advice. Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) joined with Democrats Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Michael Bennet (Co.) to forge a bipartisan plan that aims to address what the rest of us have known for years: We have a problem, and it is long past the time to do something about it.

McCain even went so far, in the press conference announcing the plan, to admit why Republicans were suddenly in favor of immigration reform even though they were against it just a few short months ago. Said McCain, in a moment of stunning honesty: “It’s Elections. Elections. The Republican party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens.”

He didn’t bother to even pretend it is actually about doing what’s right or humane; for McCain and the GOP, it’s about winning elections. How’s that for a little “straight talk?”

Still, while some Republicans appear to be acting like adults, the real question is whether any bipartisan plan to provide a sane path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants who currently live in the shadows can actually get through the House of Representatives – that magical place where progressive legislation goes to die. Not even Speaker John Boehner knows the answer, and he admitted as much in an interview with CNN. He’s going to try his hardest, though, and he’s “hopeful.”

Recent polling indicates that 6 in 10 Republicans favor providing amnesty for illegal residents. Yet despite all this happy talk within the GOP, right wingers remain rabidly against it. The right wing of the GOP has blocked every attempt made in the recent past, even one by McCain, to provide a path to citizenship for anyone here illegally, even if they were brought here as infants and lived their entire lives as Americans (albeit Americans without citizenship). For example, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, immediately attacked the plan, saying to The Hill website: “By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration.”

I’m not sure what Smith is basing that on, but he believes it. And let’s be honest: He is surely not alone.

McCain and his Republican cohorts clearly anticipated this pushback from the extreme flank of the GOP. They were careful to point out that the path to citizenship for all undocumented aliens would be “tough but fair,” and would include things such as a full and thorough background check, the payment of fines and back taxes, testing of English language and American civics, and after passing these benchmarks, an undocumented worked would be granted “legal worker” status and then issued green cards only once the border has been fully secured to the satisfaction of a panel of elected officials from border states. You know, people such as Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, a vacant dunderhead who has been known not only to wag her finger in the president’s face but also to claim that Mexican cartels were leaving headless corpses in the desert (which no one has ever found).

You can bet your bottom dollar that Obama will make any panel that has Gov. Brewer on it toothless.

Democrats are willing to risk giving back some Latino votes to Republicans in the next presidential election because immigration reform is something that progressives really want to accomplish. Plus, they also know the voices of intolerance and ignorance within the GOP are still out there, will always be out there, and will continue to inflict enough collateral damage on their own party’s moderates to put Hispanics in the Democrat column for years to come.

Obama wants to accomplish his second-term agenda. This is why he will unleash upon Congress the most remarkable campaign organization ever assembled, a true countervailing force. He’ll be the first president to employ his campaign apparatus after an election because he clearly grasps that by holding the feet of Congress to the fire, he is giving himself the best shot at achieving not only the immigration reform he wants, but gun control, as well, and perhaps even the grand bargain he’s been seeking which encompasses the debt limit, sequestration and an overhaul of the burdensome tax system.

Accomplish just any two of those goals and combine them with killing Osama bin Laden and passing health care reform in his first term, and Obama will cement the fortunes of Democratic Party power for at least a generation, not to mention earn a place in history as a truly transformative president on the level of Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy.

My Republican friends might be laughing at the thought now, but let’s see how it plays out.

 

John Zaring describes himself as a reformed Republican turned moderate Democrat who believes democracy works best when its government actually functions because its leaders are working together. He serves on the Castaic Area Town Council’s Land Use Committee, Castaic Middle School’s Site Council, the Hart District’s WiSH Education Foundation, and he is the West Ranch High School representative on the Hart District’s Advisory Council. A self-proclaimed “New Democrat” a la Bill Clinton, he lives in Castaic with his wife of 21 years and their daughters, Fiona, 16, and Kylie, 12. His commentary publishes Tuesdays.

 

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