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Typical half-stepping on immigration reform

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By its very nature, immigration is a major worry-wart policy item for any government, and that’s speaking globally. No surprise that there would be a natural tendency on the part of the citizenry to assume a worst-case scenario as far as the impact on the home space of immigrants or would-be immigrants. Never mind that, as in the U.S., citizens might largely be themselves immigrants or offspring of immigrants, a red-carpet welcome for “interloping” foreigners is anything but guaranteed. We recall again President Gerald Ford who, when he appealed to this “nation of immigrants” for the grace to provide safe haven for some Southeast Asian refugees fleeing the region in 1975, found the quality of mercy in rather short supply. That’s just how it is. And politicians understand all too well this attitude in the body politic toward wannabe immigrants of: “I got mine; tough if you can’t get yours.”

The lines are no less sharply drawn as the debate around immigration reform comes front and center again. With the votes of immigrant blocs, most significantly Latino, having gotten to proportions that can’t be ignored, Washington’s current engagement of the thorny issue is not without the balancing acts, deceit, mean-spiritedness and all else that comes with the territory. Even given that the more conservative elements in the country would expectedly be foremost objectors to an accommodating posture toward immigration, some noises heard in the Republican ranks seemed to offer hope of a softening of that opposition, induced, again, by the fear of losing immigrant voting support. The latest twist in the immigration reform saga suggests the conservative sector may have some difficulty shifting from its ideological rigidity on the issue, even when that intransigence could inflict some hurt at the ballot box.

In the space of one week recently, Republican signals morphed from a vow to embrace inclusiveness -- to reach out to women and minorities and otherwise move in a manner reflecting a changed GOP face –only to swiftly revert to form, if their immigration reform about-face is any indication. House Speaker John Boehner may well have been laying claim to license that wasn’t his to claim when he mouted off about a Republican commitment to work with the president and Democratic lawmakers on an immigration reform package. Evidently, once those other GOP voices chimed in – the ones zealously wedded to obstructionism on everything on this administra­tion’s agenda – Boehner’s brief dance with true legislative leadership came to a halt. Truth be told, when the realization settled in that Boehner was apparently only blowing smoke, it ought not to have been any real surprise.

After the hard-right Republican rump in the House and Senate engineered that tactically doomed shutdown of the government last year, some saw Boehner as ascending to a new space, as far as the control he wielded in the House, particularly with the wild bunch of extremists who, since 2011, have been the tail wagging the GOP dog. It’s early yet, but those of us who remained skeptical that Boehner could rein in House renegades probably had it right. Anti-Obama sentiment is so deep-seated among the extremists, it was difficult to see how Boehner, on any conciliation path, would not have met a solid brick wall of resistance. Unabashed, as always, in touting the “rightness” of non-cooperation with everything associated with the president, some Tea Party provocateurs even threatened publicly that any move by Boehner to support immigration reform would put his speakership in jeopardy. In the face of hard-line pushback on that order, those who expected a supposedly newly emboldened Boehner to take a principled stand against what essentially was more of the same, found themselves backing the wrong horse.

Boehner was only showing himself, on the immigration issue, to be no follower of some Republicans in the past (Senator John McCain, for instance) who have supported and even been primary sponsors of immigration reform measures passed. As opposed to which, today’s GOP immigration policy mix includes the absurdity of Republican-controlled state legislatures ranging well into what’s considered federal, not state affairs, and passing restrictive immigration legislation of their own. There can’t be much doubt that the Republican take on immigration “reform” doesn’t go much beyond making the U.S. borders impenetrable,

And there’s no need for Boehner’s doing any fancy footwork around the issue if he is cut from the very same cloth. If he was premature, ill-advised or whatever in talk about a Republican willingness to address immigration, his exit routes were many, from the awkward place he got into. What he opted for, by way of explanation for why his party once again threw under the bus millions awaiting serious Congressional action, only made him more of a pitiful leadership figure. Boehner’s comment that the GOP was backing off consideration of immigration reform because they didn’t trust the president to faithfully administer whatever is passed, was clear acknowledgment from the speaker that he could, at the drop of a hat, blend seamlessly in with the more recklessly outlandish conduct for which his caucus has become known. What a reach! We are asked to believe that this ludicrous declaration was occasioned by Obama’s indication that he intended resorting to executive orders to help overcome Congressional inaction. What a crock! Are there folks who really believed that GOP claptrap about reaching out to Latinos and other minorities?

Updated 9:24 pm, February 12, 2014
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