THE BLOG

On Immigration, Sen. John Cornyn Can't Have it Both Ways

05/25/2011 03:15 pm ET
  • Frank Sharry Founder and executive director, America's Voice

We couldn't agree more with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) when he says President Obama:

"...Must lead on immigration by offering specific proposals to secure our borders, upholding the rule of law and treating illegal immigrants with justice and compassion."

But saying the right thing is not the same as doing the right thing.

Though Sen. Cornyn has consistently said we need comprehensive immigration reform, he has also consistently voted against it - even when there was a bill strongly supported by a Republican administration. Cornyn's actions don't match his words and that's the kind of "consistency" real supporters of immigration reform can do without.

It makes us wonder if Cornyn has been giving these same mixed messages to his constituents in Texas. The political landscape in Texas is changing rapidly, in large part because of Latinos:

Latinos comprise 63% of the population growth in Texas since 2000 and are the single largest reason that the state is projected to gain four seats in the U.S. House--the greatest change, positive or negative, among any state in the nation.

And, Latinos care deeply about immigration reform. In fact, a recent poll of Latino voters "found that 84% of Latino voters think it is either 'important, very important, or extremely important' that immigration reform is enacted before the 2010 midterm elections."

Cornyn serves as a member of the Republican leadership in the Senate. He chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which is GOP's campaign committee. From that perch, Cornyn should also be urging his fellow Republicans to follow suit. As a side note, when the immigration debate began back in 2006, the Senate GOP caucus had 55 members. Today, there are 40. And, the Democrat who chaired the Democrat's campaign committee in 2006 and 2008, Chuck Schumer, is leading the effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.

So the question is: which John Cornyn will show up in the Senate when the immigration reform debate begins? Perhaps its time Senator Cornyn's lofty rhetoric gets introduced to his awful voting record. If Senator Cornyn wants to do more than talk the talk, then he should help President Obama and his colleagues in the Senate to enact immigration reform. He'll soon have his chance.

Comprehensive immigration reform offers Congressional lawmakers a chance to come together after a very politically divisive year to address an issue that Americans of all political stripes care deeply about and support.

Recent and past polling by America's Voice show consistent backing for reform that includes border security, a crackdown on illegal hiring and a requirement that those in the U.S. illegally register with the government, have background checks, study English and pay taxes as they work their way towards citizenship. I suspect the Chair of the NRSC has seen similar polling.

Americans also believe that comprehensive immigration reform better serves the economy because it would increase wages and improve working conditions for all workers, generate additional tax revenues, and help honest employers undercut by those unscrupulous workers who undercut competitors by paying lower wages and falling to pay their fair share of employment taxes.

Immigration reform is not a political liability, it's a bipartisan opportunity.

Failure to enact reform will have continued political consequences for those who impede progress. We encourage Sen. Cornyn and his colleagues to seize the opportunity, not block it.

Cross-posted at America's Voice.