Published:  February 4, 2014

Not since the days of the “I was for it, before I was against it” explanation, have I gotten such a chuckle from our nation’s political theater.  Given the tragic human costs at stake in this conversation though, maybe tears would be the more appropriate response.  Over the zany, decade-plus road our politicians and multiple Presidents have kicked around the immigration football, we have seen oppositional behavior from the major players on both sides of the aisle, with neither side wanting to give the other a victory.  With the perception that such posturing is rewarded in today’s media-on-steroids environment, prominent political players in the current immigration arena have assumed predictable positions.  Most recently, in response to a bold set of viable, immigration solution “principles” released by a group of Congressional Republicans led by John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tea Party leaning Republican Senators rushed to throw water on such ideas, since President Obama, according to them, cannot be trusted to implement any significant legislative program.  And this is after President Obama showed signs of compromise in response to Boehner’s “principles”.     

Mainly, in an election year effort to protect their jobs and please their Tea Party leaning/anti-everything-Obama constituents – who would just as well prefer a mass deportation initiative, this group of politicians cannot and will not give Obama a victory, notwithstanding the agreement of our President and a bipartisan majority of our elected representatives in Washington.  So, yes our nation’s Republican party is splintering.  Whether that splinter adds up to an immigration reform solution and a victory for Obama and the Democrats this year remains to be seen.  For certain, the far right faction of the Republican party are going to put up a big fight, or at least create the appearance of one.

Speaker of the House Boehner says he is in favor of achieving a solution to our nation’s immigration problems.  To be sure though, the comprehensive legislative measure, featuring a 13 year legalization path that passed the U.S. Senate last summer, is not what he has in mind.  What he does supposedly favor, is a “piecemeal” approach, where smaller bits of legislation are implemented, along with heightened immigration enforcement regimens.  According to the recently released principles, the “piecemeal” bits of legislation in mind include: a) allowing for permanent legal immigration status for individuals arriving in the U.S. as children (DREAM Act beneficiaries), b) creating a provisional status for most of the rest of the 11 million undocumented – and with a path toward permanent resident status via currently in place immigration provisions – and c) increasing the annual supply of high tech worker visas.  Alongside such “piecemeal” immigration benefits, come initiatives toward interior enforcement of immigration laws, such as enhanced workplace verification and visa tracking.

So, within the moderate-Republicans’ immigration conversation, the word “comprehensive” is bad, and the word “piecemeal” is good.  As stated, based on the President’s early responses to Boehner’s principles, piecemeal may even be good enough.  But as soon as President Obama greeted Boehner’s ideas with the tiniest hug, we immediately see an avalanche of brush-off’s from far right Senate Republicans holding on dearly to their jobs.  Whatever compromise Obama seeks to reach with Boehner, recent declarations by Senators Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, and the like, make clear that such an agreement will be deemed insufficient on any number of deal killing pretexts, such as, that it will fail to adequately “secure the border” or adequately penalize law breaking employers.  Further, even if the specific language in a proposed compromise includes industrial strength penalties and enforcement, the far right camp has concluded that Obama cannot be trusted in any way, whether as a person, or as an administrator of large scale programs (Obamacare = Government Incompetence).  So for them, any legislative compromise is dead on arrival.

Of course one could never imagine a democratic society where politics has no role in legislative debate.  The question is whether one could ever have imagined a democratic society where anger and emotion are so heightened that good faith attempts to implement sensible legislation favored by a majority of its representatives can be thwarted by a relatively small group of politicians.  In today’s immigration debate, indeed, we have a population of constituents whose contempt, if not hatred, of those with opposing views, may be strong enough to achieve such a result.

Like always, developments in this political drama will continue to be featured here.


PUBLISHED February 4, 2014– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2014, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois