Alex Altman writes for TIME Magazine:
Reformers have spent months waiting for House Republicans to lay out a plan to rewrite U.S. immigration law. Now that the GOP has finally made its move, they can’t agree what to make of it.
The blueprint released Thursday is “a game changer,” according to Tamar Jacoby, president of the pro-reform business coalition ImmigrationWorks USA. Or perhaps it’s “a joke,” as Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, told the Washington Post. “It’s a hoax is what it is. It’s like fool’s gold.” [Pols emphasis]
Reform advocates, who pored over the GOP’s 800-word “standards for immigration reform” with the fervor of NSA code breakers, came away divided about whether it represents a genuine effort to untangle one of the knottiest policy problems facing Congress. The divergent reactions proved that the immigration movement is no more a monolith than the famously fractious House Republican conference.
Here in Colorado, as the Denver Post's Allison Sherry reports today, immigrant advocates are largely positive:
[Immigration activist Ricardo] Martinez felt hopeful. He said if House Republicans, who control that chamber and the current destiny of immigration reform, want to make it easier for law-abiding yet undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status, it could be possible for that same group of people to eventually become citizens.
"We can have a conversation about no special path to citizenship," said Martinez, who runs Padres Unidos and regularly flies to the nation's capital for immigrant advocacy. "No one was ever asking for a special path. … At least they're here. It's good there is a conversation going here."
Speaking with Rep. Cory Gardner, who these days appears to lead the Colorado GOP congressional delegation, Sherry heard lip service paid to "moving ahead" on at least one line-item within the larger debate over immigration reform:
"There are people in the conference … I'm not quite sure where they're at," Gardner said. "I don't know what would satisfy them. … We shouldn't wait. It's been over a year now since we said border security was important, and here we are with no border-security bill moving out of the House. The longer we wait, the longer the system continues to be broken."
According to Sherry, Gardner doesn't want to "start a conversation" about what to do with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States "until the border is secure." In the past, this is the same language used by Republicans which was denounced by immigration reform proponents as a false promise–it's doubtful the border would ever be "secure" enough to make Republicans happy, so calling for all manner of pie-in-the-sky reforms "once the border is secure" is a way to placate reform advocates without actually committing to anything. That's one of the reasons why reform proponents have always preferred a comprehensive bill, like what passed the Senate last year, ensuring all aspects of this complex problem are addressed. Despite that, as you can read above, many reform proponents, even up to President Barack Obama himself, are responding favorably. Others remain skeptical.
The rest of the Republican congressional delegation, Reps. Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, and Doug Lamborn, all declined comment for Allison Sherry's story today.
Politically, the fight over immigration reform this year affects Coffman more than any other Republican in the Colorado delegation. Formerly a hard-line anti-immigrant Republican in the mold of his predecessor Tom Tancredo, redistricting has forced Coffman to dramatically soften his rhetoric. Coffman no longer represents Tancredo's base of support, and now represents one of the most competitive districts in America. Since barely surviving in 2012 against a second-tier opponent, Coffman is rhetorically a changed man on the issue of immigration–calling for, among other things, a path to citizenship for undocumented children who enlist in the military.
Unfortunately for Coffman, that rhetoric has worn thin after he was given critical subsequent opportunities to vote his newfound conscience on actual legislation–and he failed to do so.
After Obama's address last week, Coffman's response angered Democrats for being belligerently out-of-step with even fellow Republicans, many of whom were offering conciliatory statements after a strong performance by the President. Political liberals hammered Coffman on immigration in particular, saying "it appears that Coffman has been playing immigration reform supporters for fools the whole time." That message went out mere hours before the GOP released their new "principles" on immigration–which, it should be noted, Coffman has yet to publicly endorse.
With the scene laid, we'll pose the question to our readers: should Republican gestures toward immigration reform be taken in good faith by Democrats? Can the "piecemeal" approach advocated by Republicans, apparently starting with "border security," produce acceptable results in an election year? Should immigration reform proponents "go easy" on Republicans, especially Coffman, in hope of obtaining results? Even in an election year? Or is this whole effort by Republicans just a delaying action to keep the issue at bay through November?
The answers to these questions, safe to say, are consequential.