Maria Cardona explains why Republicans forced the president to act on immigration
The GOP, she says, threw up excuse after excuse not to pass immigration reform
Despite broad support, Speaker Boehner refused to even bring it up for a vote
Editor’s Note: Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist, a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and former communications director for the Democratic National Committee. She is also a CNN Political Commentator. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
When a Phoenix teacher, way back in 2004, offered four students the option of learning marine science through textbook lessons or by building an underwater robot, the students chose the hands-on approach.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner informed President Barack Obama that he would not bring a vote on immigration reform to the floor this year.
Whatever excuse Speaker Boehner has for abdicating his responsibility as a national leader, it is not good enough, and he has now given the President ample excuse to act on his own. Which he is now doing.
Since Republicans in Congress refuse to do their job and allow a vote on comprehensive immigration reform this year, Obama, on behalf of the American people, is acting on his own to address this important issue – for the well-being of our country, our economy and the immigrant community that has contributed so much to our economic growth and prosperity and is suffering greatly from a badly broken system.
Republicans had a year to either bring the Senate immigration bill to the House floor, or come up with an approach of their own that would deal with the different moving pieces necessary to fix our broken immigration system.
Obama and Democrats were willing to compromise at every corner – and despite disapproval from advocates and allies – even held off on pressuring Republicans in hopes that would help create space for reform.
But it didn’t work.
No matter what they did, the GOP refused to move. Republicans chose to play politics and spew excuses, rather than honor the will of the majority of the American people and pass such needed reform.
In 2013 they said they didn’t have enough time in the legislative calendar to pass reform, but they did have time to shut down the government which cost us $24 billion.
Then, Republican leadership announced they wouldn’t move on immigration reform unless the majority of the Republican caucus supported it, even though the votes were there to pass reform and poll after poll showed the majority of the American people support reforming our immigration system. All of this while promising they would bring up legislation.
Earlier this year we were encouraged by Republicans putting out their immigration principles – which were less than ideal but which the President and Democrats were willing to discuss.
A week later Republicans said they couldn’t move on immigration reform because they couldn’t trust the President to enforce the law. This is the same President who advocates have hit hard over his record number of deportations and enforcement policies. According to that measure, the GOP should have been thrilled. But it also exposed the rampant hypocritical nature of their excuse not to act.
And then there’s the biggest excuse of all: border security first. Never mind that border security is stronger than ever. Never mind that the Senate bill the GOP refused to bring up for a vote in the House would have doubled the amount of agents on the border to 40,000 and provided an extra $38 billion dollars to increase border security.
Republicans have used every excuse in the book to block a bill that would have actually addressed their biggest priorities when it comes to immigration reform – border security, enforcement, employment verification, high tech visas etc.
But even with that in mind, they’d rather point fingers that get something done. It makes no sense.
So after more than a year of excuses and delays, we at least have clarity on something Americans have suspected all along: The anti-immigrant extremist faction of the GOP is calling the shots, making it impossible for Republicans to deliver any real substantive action on this issue.
Make no mistake, Republicans should understand something very clearly: In killing immigration reform, Speaker Boehner and the GOP are not only killing the hopes of millions of immigrants in this country counting on reform to allow them to fully come out of the shadows and shield them and their families from deportations, but the GOP is in effect committing long-term institutional political suicide and saying “adios” to any chance of the GOP capturing the White House in 2016.
Even the GOP’s self-interest was not enough to motivate them to support and lead on the issue.
It became clear that there is no option left, and that the GOP has been playing us all along as they have no intention to pass reform. Ya basta. No more.
Let’s be clear, the President did not want to act alone. He did everything he could to work with Republicans in Congress and he knows that a long term permanent solution has to be legislative, but he also knows that if Congress won’t act, he has to.
As Obama himself said, “America cannot wait forever for them to act.”
The American people and the immigrant community support reform, and want brave leaders who are willing to fight for them and do the hard work.
The President proved that he’s willing to go to bat for immigration reform. He will act because the GOP won’t. The country deserves better.
Mr. President, America is behind you on this every step of the way.