Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Immigration Ball Rolling, But GOP Has To Get Crazy Base Behind It

Sure, it's easy for Republican senators to get all collegial in the confines of their white-granite hallways and talk sweet nothings to the Latino voters who ran the other direction in the 2012 elections. Just wait till they get out and meet their base and try to talk the same sweet nothings to them. The word came out of the Beltway yesterday that a group of senators from both parties had cobbled together the outlines of a comprehensive immigration-reform bill, just ahead of President Obama's announcement of his own plan:
A bipartisan group of senators has agreed on a set of principles for a sweeping overhaul of the immigration system, including a pathway to American citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants that would hinge on progress in securing the borders and ensuring that foreigners leave the country when their visas expire. The senators were able to reach a deal by incorporating the Democrats’ insistence on a single comprehensive bill that would not deny eventual citizenship to illegal immigrants, with Republican demands that strong border and interior enforcement had to be clearly in place before Congress could consider legal status for illegal immigrants.
As the L.A. Times story notes, this really is quite a sea change, especially considering the nativist spectacle to which we were treated during the 2012 Republican primary season:
The Senate plan is more conservative than President Obama's proposal, which he plans to unveil Tuesday in a speech in Las Vegas. But its provisions for legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants go further than measures that failed to advance in Congress in previous years — a reminder of how swiftly the politics of immigration have shifted since Latino voters' strong influence in the November election.
It's almost certain that this plan is well short of a progressive plan for immigration reform, but it is at least a start -- particularly given that a path to citizenship is now the preferred model for sensible Republicans, rather than the mass-deportation and self-deportation positions the GOP's nativist wing has favored for so many years.

Of course, simply whispering sweet nothings to Latinos after years of demonizing them is not going to be an easy sell to Latino voters, as Digby explains -- these are not going to be voters who lean conservative in any event. But that is exactly what the Republican base fears about Latino immigrants anyway -- which is why they are now in the opening stages of Going Completely F****ing Nuts on this issue.

Leading the charge, unsurprisingly, is none other than our favorite Anchor Baby herself, Michelle Malkin, who is now tearing out her voluminous hair and glowering in the general direction of Marco Rubio and John McCain, warning that "the solution to the problem" for Republicans, voting-demographic-wise, "isn’t to throw in the towel and tie enforcement-in-name-only to a de jure amnesty":
And don’t believe the hype from Rubio supporters that this warmed-over shamnesty proposal — another recipe for more illegal immigration, a bigger welfare state, and undermined sovereignty — is somehow new, improved and more enlightened.
Predictably, the white nationalists have chimed in in agreement, as well as the Tea Party faction, represented by William Teach at Right Wing News:
McCain, Bush, Lindsay Graham, and many of the others pushing Shamnesty in 2007 were saying the same thing, and the answer now is the same as then: these illegals, when they obtain citizenship, will mostly end up being Democrat voters, not Republican voters. So many of them are going to end up right in the social entitlement system. Just like happened in 1986 when Democrats talked Reagan into it, saying “just this one time”. And just like then, any deal will embolden future illegals to come.
That's who these Republican senators are going to be encountering over the next several months -- particularly as the media mouth-foamers like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck get into the act. Then we'll see how they talk afterwards.
More significantly, even the passage of a Senate immigration-reform bill will mean nothing once it reaches the Tea Party-dominated House -- as Steve Israel observed this morning on MSNBC:

ISRAEL: It's all about whether House Republicans are willing to stand up to the Tea Party base. You've got a bipartisan group of senators left and right advocating a path forward. You've got the president of the United States, who will unveil his views on a path forward. What this comes down to now is will these House Republicans, who have pandered to their intolerant Tea Party base, who have fed into the extremism of that Tea Party base, are they willing to stand up to the Tea Party and do what's right for America? We'll see whether they're able to amass the votes to move us forward.
We wish them the best of luck. Especially considering that over in the House, they are currently moving in the opposite direction: As Devin Burghart at IREHR reports, efforts to eliminate birthright citizenship are picking up steam in the House Republicans' version of an immigration committee.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.