Throughout the immigration debate, Republicans have run phony excuses for delay, Democrats keep stripping them away, and the process keeps moving forward.
Last June when the Senate was deliberating immigration reform, and Republicans were complaining that it didn’t do enough border security, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer’s team suggested a multibillion-dollar “border surge.”
The deadlock was broken and the bill passed with a solid bipartisan vote.
Then House Republicans rejected the Senate’s “comprehensive” approach and signaled its preference for a series of “piecemeal” bills – without explaining their desire to delink any legalization of undocumented immigrants with other aspects of immigration reform.
But in November, President Obama accepted the piecemeal approach, “as long as all the pieces get done, soon.”
The following week, Speaker John Boehner hired to lead his immigration team a prominent supporter of providing the undocumented with a path to citizenship, reigniting the legislative process.
Now last week, Boehner suggested immigration reform could not pass so long as President Obama could not prove his trustworthiness, saying “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.”
And Monday in response, Sen. Schumer rendered that excuse inoperative, proposing the implementation date for any legislation could be set for 2017.
The Schumer proposal isn’t even that much of a concession. As the National Immigration Forum explained to Politico, “it would take a minimum of a year to 18 months to write regulations and do other procedural steps to prepare for implementation of new immigration laws.”
And keep in mind that Obama’s health care reform and Wall Street reform laws from his first-term are still in the process of being implemented. Assuming legislation wouldn’t reach the President’s desk until this summer, implementation might not occur until 2016 anyway, at least.
Some anti-reform conservatives, such as the Washington Examiner’s David Freddeso, want to take Schumer’s offer and argue that it means there is “no rush to pass it while Ds still control Senate.”
The argument for waiting until Republicans fully control Congress is an argument coming from those on the anti-immigration right who don’t want to give any sort of legal status to the 11 million undocumented workers already in America. You need Democratic votes for legalization; you don’t need Democratic votes for just border security.
But for those Republicans who are trying to pass real immigration reform, delaying passage to render legalization politically unnecessary misses the whole point: Some form of legalization is politically necessary for Republicans to have any hope of winning Latino votes in this decade or longer.
Which is probably why Boehner and others keep making phony excuses that they know Democrats can nullify. Republicans can be seen as towing a hard line, while still making a final bill possible.
The only question is: How many more excuses do Republicans have to cycle through before this kabuki dance ends?
(Answer: How many it takes until the Republican primaries are over.)