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Boehner's empty excuse

Published 02/11/2014 12:00 AM
Updated 02/10/2014 11:55 PM

It is hard to imagine a more cynical, deceitful and self-serving excuse for not proceeding with immigration reform legislation than that concocted by Republican House Speaker John Boehner last week.

"There's widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes," the Ohio Republican said at a news conference.

Translation: Once again Speaker Boehner cannot control the radical fringe of his House caucus so he is trying to shift the blame to the White House.

Despite Speaker Boehner's transparent efforts, the continued Republican opposition to immigration reform is being exposed in all its xenophobic ingloriousness. Ensconced in carefully drawn conservative districts where the only threat comes from the right in a Republican primary, a large number of House members will not entertain any policy that allows undocumented migrants to gain legal status.

Speaker Boehner needs the courage to work around them, not only because it is good policy, but also because it is good politics.

It is unrealistic to round up 12 million undocumented migrants and deport them. It is far better to find a way to move those migrants who are otherwise law-abiding residents into some form of legal status, getting them out of the shadow economy and fully involved as members of their communities.

Politically, if Republicans want to win national elections, they must stop alienating large segments of the population. Remember, President Obama was re-elected with more than 70 percent of the vote among Latinos and Asian Americans.

Instead of working to find a path to get a bill passed, Speaker Boehner returned to the big lie that the Obama administration is weak on enforcement of immigration law. The opposite is true. As The Economist recently noted, America is expelling illegal immigrants at nine times the rate of 20 years ago. Nearly 2 million deportations have taken place under this president, far more than under any predecessor.

In a vain effort to win GOP support for reform by showing he is tough on border control, President Obama is, if anything, overreaching, tearing families apart, causing more poverty and suffering, while enriching contractors who run detention centers.

President Obama needs to call the speaker on his bluff and remind Republicans they will pay a political price for intransigence on this issue.

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