By Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, Director, Civic Engagement and Immigration, NCLR
Here we go again. The House leadership pays lip service to the need for immigration reform and then rejects taking even one step in that direction. This is not the first time that this has happened, but we don't usually see it happen all on the same day! This week, Speaker of the House John Boehner had his breakfast interrupted by reality--two young people whose lives have actually been torn asunder by a broken immigration system asked him when things will change. Mr. Boehner reiterated that he wants to see reform pass, but that it wasn't easy. Fair enough. Yet just a few hours later he proclaimed that the House of Representatives "will never go to conference on the Senate bill." Once again, the House leadership has given people a sliver of hope and then applied the brakes.
Watch the video of the exchange with the students below:
And once again, all we got were excuses. Mr. Boehner said that he wants his members to know what they're voting on and that the Senate bill is 1,300 pages long. Okay, that might have worked in June, when the Senate passed that bill, but not in November. Surely five months is enough time for someone in the House to have read the bill. The Speaker again stated that House members are working on their own piecemeal immigration legislation, something he has said repeatedly all year. But here we are, almost at the end of 2013, and not one single piece of legislation on immigration has been brought to the floor--except for a measure to deport DREAMers.
It is hard to figure out why Mr. Boehner keeps up his "push me, pull you" stance on immigration, since it does not seem to appease anyone. Sure, some in his caucus don't want him to support any kind of reform. But there are others who do. Why should these reasonable voices continue to be silenced while opponents of reform are given a megaphone?
It is time to pull off the mask. You cannot say you care about the deficit and block a measure that would reduce it. You cannot say you care about family values and defend inaction that is a direct attack on the family core. And you cannot claim to speak for the American public and block reform that the vast majority of Americans support, across political affiliations and faith denominations, from the farm fields to Silicon Valley.
Whatever division there may be in the Republican Caucus, one thing is undeniably true: the Hispanic electorate is growing rapidly and the Republican Party's standing in the Latino community is deteriorating just as fast. It is hard to defend the status quo on immigration when there are deportations that break up families, visa restrictions that limit economic growth, and policies that undermine the rule of law rather than strengthen it. But by declaring no willingness to negotiate with the Senate to enact reform, Mr. Boehner is declaring the Republican Party's intention to do just that, instead of doing what our country needs.
This lack of political will is pitiful. It would almost be comical if it were not so costly to the United States and so devastating to the Latino community--and if a real solution were not possible. But reform is possible, and Mr. Boehner has a responsibility to lead.