Imploring readers to “focus our attention on the president's actions rather than his words,” Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) recently took to the pages of the San Antonio Express-News to slam President Obama on immigration issues. While doing so, however, he portrayed himself as a tireless supporter of immigration reform.
He even took a not-so-veiled shot at congressional Democrats’ attempts to pass the DREAM Act in 2010, writing, “Unlike some of my colleagues, I don't believe it's helpful to introduce an immigration bill that has no chance of passage.” He went on to claim that his “commitment to fix our broken system has not wavered.”
Say what? For immigration reform advocates like us, the yawning gap between what Cornyn says and what he does on immigration reform is legendary. Let’s review the record:
- In 2005, when Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) teamed up to turn President George W. Bush’s vision of comprehensive immigration reform into reality, Cornyn said he agreed with the basic elements: strong border security, a crackdown on illegal hiring, an expanded temporary worker program, and a way for those here illegally to earn legal status. But instead of joining in, Senator Cornyn worked with Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) to introduce a competing and stingier reform bill that had no chance of passing but succeeded in blocking progress on immigration reform throughout 2005. Perhaps this is when he learned that it’s not “helpful to introduce an immigration bill that has no chance of passage.”
- In early 2006, and under pressure to do something in response to the infamous enforcement-only Sensenbrenner bill that was approved by the Republican House in late 2005, the Senate Judiciary Committee took up comprehensive immigration reform. After it moved to the right through negotiations and amendments, the Committee approved it on a bipartisan basis by a margin of 12-6. Senator Cornyn’s vote? No.
- In the early summer of 2006 the bipartisan bill was taken up by the full Senate. President Bush made a prime time address to the nation from the Oval Office. Once again, the bill moved further right to win Republican support. The Senate approved the bill 62-36 with 23 Republicans and 39 Democrats voting yes (including then-Senator Barack Obama). Senator Cornyn’s vote? No.
- In 2007, President George W. Bush waged the last great fight of his presidency. He persuaded Cornyn’s former ally Jon Kyl to negotiate a bill that most Republicans could embrace. The legislation that emerged from the backroom negotiations, of which Cornyn was a player, was remarkably similar to the original Cornyn-Kyl bill introduced back in 2005. The bill failed after being attacked by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Tom Tancredo. It attracted 12 Republican votes (including Kyl’s) and 34 Democratic votes (including Obama’s). Senator Cornyn’s vote? No.
- In 2010, with Republicans locking arms to block Obama on comprehensive immigration reform, the Senate finally managed to get a straight up-or-down vote on the DREAM Act. This targeted bill would have helped a defined group of talented young immigrants who came here illegally through no fault of their own; those that attend college and serve in our military could have worked towards citizenship. It enjoyed the strong support of President Obama, passed the House of Representatives, and won 55 Senate votes (3 from Republicans). But because of a Republican filibuster the measure failed, unable to garner the needed 60 votes. Senator Cornyn’s vote? No.
Not to be deterred, in his recent State of the Union address, President Obama challenged both parties to come together on comprehensive immigration. Instead of picking up the banner of bipartisan cooperation, Senator Cornyn picked up a pen and wrote an op-ed blaming the President for the lack of progress.
No wonder Sen. Cornyn is well known in immigration reform circles as someone who talks the talk without walking the walk. Conservative columnist Ruben Navarette, who recently examined the Senator’s immigration record, dubbed John Cornyn the “master of the flip flop.” Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX), the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said of Cornyn “In order for his call to be credible and his compassion to be measurable, he must back up his words with coherent actions.”
Yes, Senator Cornyn, actions do matter more than words. And your actions have produced a legacy on immigration reform that can be summed up in one word: hypocrisy.