“Self-Deportation Can’t Be Rebranded”: Wording The Explanation Differently Doesn’t Change The Meaning
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appeared on “Meet the Press” last weekend and said something interesting about the Republican Party and its approach to immigration policy.
“[T]he politics of self-deportation are behind us,” Graham said. “Mitt Romney is a good man. He ran in many ways a good campaign, but it was an impractical solution, quite frankly. It was offensive. Every corner of the Republican Party from libertarians, the RNC, House Republicans and the rank and file Republican Party member is now understanding there has to be an earned pathway to citizenship.”
For those hoping to see comprehensive immigration reform this year, it was a heartening sentiment. It was also mistaken — the politics of self-deportation are still at the core of many GOP contingents.
A pocket of conservatives is lashing out privately and publicly against broad immigration reform and could seriously complicate any momentum for a House deal. [...]
Some in the party want to solve the problem much the same way that Mitt Romney did in 2012.
[Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California] said: “You make sure that people who are here illegally do not get jobs, and they don’t get benefits and they will go home. It’s called attrition. I don’t happen to believe in deportation. If you make sure they don’t get jobs and they don’t get benefits, I mean Mitt [Romney] called it self-deportation, but it’s not; it’s just attrition. They’ll go home on their own.”
What I love about this quote is its amazing effort to try to rebrand “self-deportation,” as if the meaning of the phrase can change if the explanation is worded slightly differently. For Rohrabacher, he doesn’t want mass deportation from the government; he just wants to create an environment in which undocumented immigrants’ lives are made so miserable, they’ll “go home on their own.”
Rohrabacher says, however, this is “not” self-deportation, which it obviously is. In fact, he’s describing the policy precisely.
“[T]he politics of self-deportation are behind us”? We should be so lucky.
If I had to guess, I’d say the odds of the Senate approving an immigration bill are quite good — it’s not a sure thing, but the smart money says a reform bill will pass the upper chamber. But whether the radicalized House Republican majority will tolerate a popular, bipartisan bill is a much tougher question.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 12, 2013
In what appears to be a remarkable about-face, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Monday stepped back from his previous position on immigration reform, telling NBC’s Today that he does not support a path to citizenship for immigrants who entered the country illegally. “I think there has to be some difference between people who come here legally and illegally,” Bush said. “It is just a matter of common sense and a matter of the rule of law. If we’re not going to apply the law fairly and consistently, we’re going to have another wave of illegal immigrants coming into the country.”
Bush is even more explicit in a forthcoming book called Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution that he co-authored with lawyer Clint Bolick. According to Elise Foley at The Huffington Post, who nabbed a copy of the book before its official publication date, Bush and Bolick write, “It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences — in this case, that those who violated the law can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship.” They continue: “To do otherwise would signal once again that people who circumvent the system can still obtain the full benefits of American citizenship.”
Technically, Bush says he does support a path to citizenship, but only if undocumented immigrants return to their home countries and apply through legal channels. That is miles away from his previous stance on the issue. As recently as January, Bush and Book wrote the following in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):
A practicable system of work-based immigration for both high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants — a system that will include a path to citizenship — will help us meet workforce needs, prevent exportation of jobs to foreign countries and protect against the exploitation of workers…
America’s immigration system should provide opportunities for people who share the country’s core values to become citizens, thereby strengthening the nation as have countless immigrants have before them. [The Wall Street Journal]
In addition, Bush spent much of the 2012 presidential campaign criticizing Republicans — and by implication, standard-bearer Mitt Romney — for taking a hard-line stance on immigration. Bush’s new position has angered at least one member of the Romney campaign, according to The Miami Herald:
“Where the hell was this Jeb Bush during the campaign?” said one advisor. “He spent all this time criticizing Romney and it turns out he has basically the same position. So he wants people to go back to their country and apply for citizenship? Well, that’s self deportation. We got creamed for talking about that. And now Jeb is saying the same thing.”
Asked to respond, Bush said by email: “I am not advocating self deportation. Read the book.” [The Miami Herald]
What is the former Florida governor hoping to accomplish? There was immediate speculation that Bush, who is considered a possible presidential contender in 2016, is seeking to place himself to the right of Sen. Marco Rubio, a fellow Floridian who is leading a bipartisan effort to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would likely include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. When asked by NBC whether he was running for president, Bush left the door wide open. “I have a voice,” he said. “I want to share my beliefs about how the conservative movement and the Republican Party can regain its footing, because we’ve lost our way.” When pressed, he refused to rule out a run. “I won’t,” he said, “but I’m not going to declare today either.”
Others say that Bush’s shift reflects the stubborn fact that the GOP is not serious about comprehensive reform, despite Rubio’s efforts and the appeals of party leaders (one of whom used to be Bush himself). “If I had to hazard a guess,” writes Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect, “this is another sign Republicans are moving away from comprehensive immigration reform, and towards something more piecemeal and less effective.”
And where does that leave Rubio’s proposal? According to Benjy Sarlin at Talking Points Memo:
“Wow,” Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the liberal Center For American Progress, told TPM in an email. “For a guy who has been a luminary on this issue for the GOP, his endorsement of such a regressive policy is deeply troubling.”
The big question going forward, Fitz said, is “whether it cuts Rubio’s legs out from under him” by pressuring his right flank, or merely gives Rubio more power within the bipartisan gang negotiating a bill by demonstrating that conservative concerns about a bill are still a major hurdle that only he can address. [Talking Points Memo]
By: Ryu Spaeth, The Week, March 4, 2013
Think back to the battle over health-care reform. Can you imagine that Republicans, upon hearing that President Obama was about to offer his own proposals, would want to rush ahead of him to put their own marker down — and take positions close to his?
That’s the comparison to keep in mind to understand the extraordinary transformation of Beltway politics on immigration reform. Until Obama was reelected, party competition translated into Republican efforts to block virtually everything the president wanted to accomplish. On immigration, at least, the parties are now competing to share credit for doing something big. It’s wonderful to behold.
Republicans who always held views on immigration similar to the president’s — notably Sen. John McCain — are now free to say so. Other Republicans who thought a hard line on the issue was a political winner have been forced by the electoral facts to change their minds. Democrats, aware of how important Latino votes are to their party’s future, are determined to get immigration reform done. Nothing is certain in Washington, especially in the Republican-led House of Representatives, but the odds that we will finally fix a broken immigration system are very high.
The behind-the-scenes wrangling over the choreography of this week’s twin immigration announcements — by a bipartisan group of senators and by the president in a speech in Nevada — shows how strong the bias toward action has become.
We’ve become so accustomed to the politics of obstruction that we forget there is still such a thing as legislative craftsmanship. Monday’s unveiling by eight senators of their ideas for reform was months in the making as Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) worked closely with their colleagues to prepare for this moment.
But Obama felt compelled to make clear early on that immigration reform was one of his highest priorities. The Senate negotiators worried that if Obama got out front with positions more progressive than theirs, particularly on a speedier path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, he could foil their efforts to reach accord.
This fear reflected the GOP’s Obama-can’t-win response to whatever he does. Until now, Republicans criticized him for not taking “leadership” in pushing for immigration reform. But as soon as he was ready to speak out, the GOP switched direction, warning that his leadership was the last thing they wanted — and could get in the way of a compromise. Thus did House Speaker John Boehner use a spokesman to instruct Obama to be “careful not to drag the debate to the left and ultimately disrupt the difficult work that is ahead in the House and Senate.”
As it happened, by letting it be known that he planned to give an immigration speech, Obama sped up the timetable of the Senate group, said a House Democrat active on the issue, and even encouraged a small collection of House Republicans eager for reform to let it be known that they, too, were working toward compromise. Obama sought to thread the political needle by laying out his principles while holding off on proposing a bill of his own. He would send up legislation only “if Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion.” A relieved Schumer, using words almost never heard in Washington, declared that the president “is handling this perfectly.”
There will be much posturing over the next several months. By going slightly to the progressive side of the senators, Obama may ease the way for Republicans to strike a deal since they will be able to claim they stayed to the president’s right. Conservative supporters of reform, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, will keep saying critical things about the president to preserve their credibility with the right. And if Boehner is interested in reform, he, too, must play a delicate game of distancing himself from Obama to persuade his most conservative colleagues to acquiesce to a vote on a bill.
But make no mistake: This is immigration reform’s time. It was poignant to hear McCain state plainly and eloquently what he has always felt. “We have been too content for too long,” he said, “to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve our food, clean our homes and even watch our children, while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.” Thanks to an election, those words are no longer politically incorrect inside John McCain’s party.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 30, 2013
Senator Ted Cruz isn’t a fan of the “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants already in the United States. His remarks on the subject were a response to a new immigration proposal in Congress. “There are some good elements in this proposal, especially increasing the resources and manpower to secure our border and also improving and streamlining legal immigration,” he said. “I have deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship. To allow those who came here illegally to be placed on such a path is both inconsistent with the rule of law and profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who waited years, if not decades, to come to America legally.”
Over the years, I’ve grown increasingly skeptical of that argument.
The typical illegal immigrant is born, through no fault of his own, into an impoverished country with low standards of living, endemic corruption, and few economic opportunities for bettering his lot. There are richer countries where he could live a much better life. But the people born into those richer countries, owing to nothing but dumb luck, have enacted restrictive immigration laws that make it effectively impossible for someone of his stature to immigrate legally.
In one of those rich countries, the United States, most people who made the restrictive laws wouldn’t even be here but for the unrestricted immigration policy that prevailed when their ancestors arrived.
But back to the typical illegal immigrant.
In his impoverished land, he faces a choice: severely limit his life opportunities by staying in his home country; play the lottery of immigrating legally, which almost always consigns him to the same fate; or bid his family goodbye, sneak across the border, get a job, send much-needed money home to his loved ones, and radically improve his own life prospects by performing honest labor for people who want to buy it. His sneaking in doesn’t take anyone else’s “spot.” No legal immigrant was slowed down by his illegal entry. But he did break a duly codified law.
Is that unfair? Let’s say that it is.
Here he is in the United States seven years later. He’s been regularly employed. He hasn’t committed any crimes. He’s better off. His family back home is better off. His employer is better off. There may be people without high-school diplomas who are slightly worse off due to lower wages.
Am I to understand that fairness demands that the people born into the rich country through sheer luck forcibly repatriate the man to the poor country where he was born through no fault of his own?
In fact, it’s among the worst of the arguments against a path to citizenship. And it isn’t improved by invoking supposedly wronged legal immigrants. There’s a tiny subset of people from other countries so unusually lucky that they win the immigration lottery — they get to come here legally, without sneaking across a dangerous border, because of luck. You’re telling me that fairness is advanced if, for those lucky few, we deport the guy who lost the immigration lottery?
When he is arrested, jailed for a few months, flown to a city not his own in his home country, and returns to the place of his birth, an impoverished village where he has no friends or prospects, I’m supposed to look at that outcome and think, Well, good, the fair thing happened!?
There may be good arguments for opposing a “path to citizenship.” Fairness is not one of them.
By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, January 29, 2013
If you had to sum up immigration reform’s crushing defeat in 2007 in one word, there would be exactly one choice: Amnesty.
That single characterization of proposals to legalize the undocumented population became a rallying cry on the right, presaging the tea party revolution and overthrowing the best laid plans of George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy alike.
As Republicans take their first steps toward backing a comprehensive immigration bill with many of the same features as their 2007 effort, the wounds of the “amnesty” tag are still raw. Not coincidentally, one of the first tasks for any prominent conservative endorsing reform is to try and neutralize the word.
On Monday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), whose entire career was threatened by an anti-immigration backlash in Arizona, used the dreaded a-word to describe the status quo.
“The reality that’s been created is a de facto amnesty,” McCain told reporters at a press conference introducing his own bipartisan plan Monday. “We have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve our food, clean our homes, and even watch our children, while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.”
Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a supporter of reform, also used the “de facto amnesty” label but in a nice partisan twist, applied it to President Obama’s policies halting deportations on young undocumented immigrants.
“As a result of the White House Executive Orders last year, we now have a defacto amnesty status which can only be fixed through legislation,” Cardenas said in a statement on Monday. “We will soon know whether President Obama is more interested in finding solutions to our nation’s immigration challenges or yet another opportunity for political grand standing and ‘gotcha’ politics.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) condemned amnesty repeatedly in an interview with MSNBC the same day while also calling for some form of immigration reform, prompting her hosts to ask just what she meant by the term.
“You know, amnesty is allowing people who came in the country to stay in the country — not asking them to make that situation right, not asking them to pay those back taxes,” she said. “I think that what we need to do is very carefully look at what this pathway is going to be. We have to make certain that there is not going to be an amnesty that encourages more amnesty.”
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) adopted a similar definition on MSNBC Tuesday when asked whether he felt the Senate’s proposal was “amnesty,” saying he thought it was “pretty tough love” by requiring undocumented immigrants to pay fines, back taxes, and pass a background check to qualify for legal status.
This definition of amnesty as “legal status without penalties” is largely in line with talking points circulated by the conservative Hispanic Leadership Network, which include a host of neat tricks for shaking the label. Among them:
Don’t begin with “We are against amnesty” Note: Most everyone is against amnesty and this is interpreted as being against any reform.…
Do acknowledge that the true meaning of amnesty is to pardon without any penalty
Don’t label earned legal status as amnesty
Don’t focus on amnesty as a tenet of immigration reform
Don’t use President Reagan’s immigration reform as an example applicable today
Note: That legislation was true amnesty; in addition, border security, fixing our visa system, and a temporary worker program were parts of the reform which were never implemented.
For every Republican on TV trying to redefine the term, however, there will be plenty looking to ride the same resentments that powered grassroots opposition to immigration reform in 2007. “It’s very difficult for me to support something that allows that type of amnesty,” Rep. Pete King (R-NY) told Newsday on Monday, explaining his opposition to the Senate plan.
By: Benjy Sarlin, Talking Points Memo, January 29, 2013