Speaker of the House John Boehner appears to have effectively ended his short (and many would say ill-advised) attempt to pass immigration reform in 2014. During remarks today, Boehner blamed a lack of trust in President Obama as the reason Republicans won’t take on this challenge.
Many observers interpreted this as tantamount to a surrender on the issue — at least, for 2014. “Boehner just basically killed immigration reform this year,” tweeted NBC’s Luke Russert.
Boehner’s comments come on the heels of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s recent assertion that immigration was an “irresolvable conflict” (a remark that I took to be a signal to Boehner to back off) — and Rep. Raul Labrador’s warning that Boehner could lose his Speakership over the issue.
And it wasn’t just elected officials. Conservative grassroots organizations were lobbying hard, too. For example, the group ForAmerica used their 4.5 million strong Facebook network to activate their followers. “In 24 hours we generated over 5500 calls into his office with the message no secret deals on amnesty,” the outfit says.
The notion that a lack of trust in Obama is the primary reason Republicans don’t want to support immigration reform is, of course, folderol (for reasons I previously explained). No doubt, there are a few who hold this view. But for most, it’s a convenient excuse to kill reform, altogether.
And the reason they want to do this is not absurd. Many Republicans legitimately fear immigration reform will kill the GOP electorally (never mind the fact that the most recent proposals call for only legalization, not citizenship.)
Ann Coulter, for example, recently noted that: “For at least a century, there’s never been a period when a majority of immigrants weren’t Democrats.”
This is essentially how many Republicans feel. But as Michael Brendan Dougherty counters, “the descendants of the 19th century great wave voted overwhelmingly for Nixon and Reagan. Many of them have come to view themselves as true conservatives, even if a century earlier America’s true conservatives wanted to ship their great grandparents back to Europe.”
In a weird sort of way, Dougherty is actually making an argument for opposing immigration reform. Theoretically, Republicans could stem the tide as long as possible, and then (just as they did with ethnic groups who became “Reagan Democrats), woo their offspring once they enter the middle class.
I suppose it could work out that way. But the real fear is that Republicans lose Hispanics at the same rate they currently lose African-Americans. If that happens, it’s game over. And my guess is that the longer Republicans create the impression they are “anti-Hispanic,” the more likely it is that future generations of Hispanics will vote like African-Americans than like Irish Catholics.