That didn’t take long.
On Wednesday, House Republicans passed a spending bill laden with pointless amendments that would undo President Obama’s executive orders on immigration. The bill has little chance of passing the Senate in its current form and no chance of surviving a presidential veto. Such futility has been the distinguishing badge of the sitting House majority.
Less than two months ago, when he announced his intention to temporarily stave off deportation of about 5 million immigrants in order to refocus government resources on deporting violent criminal immigrants, Obama implored, "We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration."
In case anybody naively thought differently, politics as usual is exactly what we’re going to get for the next two years.
The other Obama executive action that riled up conservatives allows immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children temporary permission to stay if they enroll in college or join the military. These are the so-called Dreamers. You’ve heard their stories. They are young people who sometimes don’t speak the language of their native country fluently because they spent their entire childhoods living as second-generation Americans — that is, believing they are Americans. They often find out they’re missing critical documents when applying for a driver’s license as teenagers.
The executive actions were necessary because House Republicans refused to come to the table on immigration reform. Their antics this week upped the ante. The amendments were made to a $40 billion spending bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. The GOP’s implied threat is that, absent a compromise or capitulation on Obama’s part, Homeland Security funding will run out in February.
Are the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris coming to mind right now? Congratulations, you are having a moment of sanity that seems beyond the capabilities of House members who approved this pathetic ploy.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the largest law enforcement agency of the nation and falls under the Department of Homeland Security. So do the transportation agents at our airports. The House vote tells those agents that they might have to do their jobs without pay, as they are considered essential even if the department runs out of funds. How do you think that will affect morale?
Not even national security is important enough when Republicans want to poke their finger in Obama’s eye.
Lost in all the partisanship is this truth: The president’s executive actions are not, and never were meant to be, a permanent solution to the problems of immigration. They merely put a temporary hold on deporting certain undocumented immigrants; they are only temporary reprieves.
Obama hasn’t granted anyone amnesty, much less U.S. citizenship. He cannot do so. Only Congress can.
There is some hope that the partisan logjam can be broken. Ten House Republicans voted against the overall bill and 26 voted against the amendment undoing the presidential actions on the Dreamers.
Presumably, these politicians are willing to admit the complexities of our immigration system’s failures. They are likely hearing from industry leaders who are perturbed by their party’s refusal to budge on immigration reform. How far they are willing to push their colleagues, and whether they will be willing to break ranks and support a bipartisan bill, remains to be seen. They might just be culled from the herd and silenced.
Many U.S. employers have tried to hire low-wage workers legally and found the current system unworkable. High-tech employers, too, are frustrated. They understand that Congress has not allowed for enough visas to expedite legal entry and work permits for the qualified workers they need. Immigrants suffer, the industries that depend on their labor suffer, and the American public that benefits from higher economic output suffers — all so the GOP can please the most irrational elements of its electoral base.
"Immigration is broken" is now a common plaint. The president knows it. Employers know it. And immigrants live it every day.
Yet, sadly, the elected officials best placed to fix immigration prefer cynical political games with no aim other than partisan advantage.