By Linda Chavez
Republicans won big in November on the hopes that a GOP-led Congress could counterbalance President Obama’s imperial presidency. But as the deadline approaches to fund the Department of Homeland Security (Feb. 27), it looks like Republicans would rather play chicken with Democrats than actually get something accomplished.
The House has passed a bill funding DHS that includes provisions to undo the president’s actions on immigration. Even many of us who support comprehensive immigration reform, including giving some illegal immigrants the ability to earn legal status, have grave reservations about the president’s approach. His decision to use executive action to circumvent Congress is a dangerous precedent — but this is something the courts should decide. A suit filed by 26 states is before a district court in Texas at the moment, and a decision could be handed down any day.
But the bigger issue is whether a fight over what to do about 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. is worth risking national security for all the 320 million people who live here.
The threats to U.S. security are real — and they don’t come from people who simply want to work here doing jobs most Americans shun. Republicans have allowed themselves to walk into a trap, and they seem to have no idea how to extricate themselves.
Democrats may be the ones filibustering DHS funding, but don’t count on the media or the public to blame them if DHS runs out of money at the end of the month. The fact is, most recent polls show that a majority of Americans back the president’s policy to grant temporary relief from deportation to many illegal immigrants.
Americans favor the president’s action by large margins according to most recent polls, from a low of 52 percent in a January poll by NBC News/Wall Street Journal to a high of 73 percent in a February poll taken by Public Religion Research Institute. More importantly, virtually all polling data show that most Americans believe Congress should enact comprehensive immigration reform that includes legalizing most of those illegally present in the U.S. who have been here for more than five years, have paid taxes and have been otherwise law abiding.
House Speaker John Boehner challenged his Senate counterparts to “get off their ass” and pass the House bill. But the alternative is for him to exercise some leadership on his side of the aisle. It’s easy to get most Republicans to vote for a bill that bashes Obama, but what about offering real solutions to our immigration problem?
The fact is, the Senate passed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform in 2013, but the House refused to do so. Republicans say they won’t pass a comprehensive bill until the border is secured. But the best way to stop people from sneaking into the country illegally (or overstaying their visas) is to give them a path to come legally. It would be both more effective and cheaper to pass legal reform than to spend billions more on higher, longer fences and high-tech ways to deter would-be workers from crossing illegally.
Most Republicans would like to see this issue go away, but they are too timid to stand up to the Steve Kings and Marsha Blackburns of their party. Blackburn sponsored the amendment to the DHS funding bill that would undo Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allowed those brought illegally to the U.S. as children to be exempt from deportation and allowed to work provided they meet certain qualifications, including completing high school and having a clean record.
Twenty-six Republicans voted against the amendment — good for them. But it will take someone like Boehner to stand up and be counted on the issue. And so far, he’s missing in action, willing to call names but not willing to pull his members out of the line of lemmings rushing over the cliff.
The current GOP path is the way to defeat. Americans didn’t elect a Republican majority to give the hotheads in the party an avenue to put U.S. security at risk in order to punish children who were brought to America illegally by their parents. The sooner the leadership stands up to such blackmail the better for the party and the country.
Linda Chavez is the author of “An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal.” To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.