“We all know the parties that have attracted immigrants into this country have been the ruling parties,” said Senator John McCain in 2006. In typical confusion, he also stated “Build the danged fence!” around the same time. For McCain and friends, Republicans can best win the hearts and minds of Hispanic immigrants by building ideological barriers, divides between us and them. Such a failed philosophy is practically ripped from Field of Dreams quotes: “If we build it, they will come.” In actuality, they will come one way or another, but they will not come to your vote.
Such Republican tact, coincidentally, is just how President Obama won re-election.
The Hispanic vote was critical in 2012. Seventy-one percent, in fact, went to Obama, while Romney collected the scraps. As the numbers were released, Republicans finally came to realize the coup de grace they had strategically self-inflicted — just as McCain noted, the immigrant vote is the winning vote, and the GOP is consistently losing it.
This brings us to the current immigration debate teetering on Capitol Hill, one in a series of pleas for reform. The recent State of the Union address made it clear that this was a necessity. Republicans, remembering their dismal election figures, also see an opportunity to gain immigrant sympathy in the next vote. But momentum has been slow; Obama has already refused to haphazardly deport illegal immigrants, against far-right animosity for amnesty, while a consensus on visas and requirements is far from certain.
Now, from within the gridlock, Obama’s immigration legislation has been leaked in USA Today (of all professional magazines out there). It’s classified as a “Plan B” if and only if Congress is unable to act. But if there’s one cry of agreement from the Republican caucus, it’s that Obama’s plan is unacceptable.
For a party awkwardly lifting their arms for an inconsistent immigration embrace, denigrating the President’s hypothetical proposals is a rough start. Some of these radical changes include permitting illegals to gain citizenship over an eight year period, completing criminal background checks, submitting biometric information, and paying both back taxes and fees for any new visas. They’ll also be forced to learn English and U.S. history, coercive notions that should be attractive to All-American conservatives. Evidently not.
There’s also provisions for security: an expansion of the “E-Verify” system that allows businesses to check the legal status of workers, for one. Even more personnel and funding for the Mexican border are on the table, a suggestion that’s been a boisterous Republican darling. Yet, conservative lawmakers still condemn the plan.
The rationale? It would be “dead on arrival” to the Congressional floor, says Senator Marco Rubio. To the GOP’s “rising star,” the plan neglects to “follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders” and places priorities on illegals over those legally awaiting citizenship. If you disregard that Obama’s leaked proposal addresses the border and then eschew that illegal immigrants are at the core of this debate, Rubio’s statement might make sense. Of course, Rubio prefers to address the fictional President haunting his mind. It allows him to earn the “rising star” status of radical Republican imagination.
Certainly it’s possible that Congress will create a plan before Obama’s is sent to the floor. And certainly Republicans would like a handful of Hispanic votes under their belt. As you can see, the best method to achieve this impossible feat is to bludgeon Obama’s pro-immigration plan back over the border, an expression of Latino-love only possible from the heart of Republican contradiction.