Recently, John Cornyn (R-TX) addressed Dream Action Coalition in the Houston Chronicle regarding our recent op-ed piece in the same paper. While this is a much more measured response than the original "Complete bs" tweet we received earlier in the week from the senator, we still feel that he misses the point on immigration.
To quote an article DRM wrote earlier this year ("Chuck Schumer, Border Fences and Immigration Politics"): "[Schumer's] stance on border security, however, is very significant to the upcoming debate: the 'border security' issue is one of several issues along with deportation that will become the new fronts on the immigration debate." This quote was in response to the cultural and political shift we've had in this country concerning Latinos in general and undocumented immigrants in particular: Americans are strongly behind the Dream Act, are behind comprehensive immigration reform and nobody refers to our immigration system as anything but "broken" anymore. The DREAM Act may have been controversial before, but it is considered a safe bill on both sides of the aisle now: border security is where the controversy has migrated to after the DREAM Act has been so thoroughly accepted by the American public.
In his response, Cornyn wrote of the Gang of 8 proposal "... its border-security requirements would cover only three of the nine southern-border sectors -- and only two of the five sectors in Texas. To make things worse, the bill's border-security 'trigger' is phony, because it would be activated by Washington promises, not real results."
Cornyn makes an important reference in the above quote to the Southwest Border Committee. While the details on how much authority this Committee will actually have is still being worked out, the man Dream Action Coalition recently referred to as "the heart and soul" of the Gang of 8, Marco Rubio (R-FL), said that he would not vote for a path to citizenship unless the Committee is required to sign off that the border has been "secured" as per their definition. While this is a harsh requirement considering that Joe Arpaio, Jan Brewer and many of the other most prominent anti-immigrant politicians would be allowed some say in giving the green light for the path to citizenship, it completely undermines Cornyn's argument to the point he is clearly "factually inaccurate," pants aflame.
Simply stated, the country has become much more liberal on immigration, creating a new center of politics in favor of immigration reform that is both realistic and empathetic. John Cornyn is outside of this center and staking his territory politically so he can claim to be consistent if he votes against immigration reform.
For John Cornyn to stand against the Gang of 8 and plug more border security, E-Verify and other anti-immigrant measures seen as harsh by his 38 percent Latino constituency after the 2012 is almost hard to believe. The 2012 election was seen as a referendum on immigration (as well as the economy), and opposing the Gang of 8 is analogous to the filibuster the Republican Party used to block the DREAM Act in 2010. This filibuster became one of several issues alongside "self-deportation" that cost the Republicans the Latino vote and, ultimately, the 2012 election from the presidency down to members of Congress who believed that the Latino vote wouldn't matter.
The entire immigration movement is looking at senators along the border right now. Republican orthodoxy is to find some minor flaw in an otherwise good immigration bill, and then use that as the excuse to put off reform for another few years.
If Cornyn were to keep his position for tighter border security and use this rhetoric to vote against immigration reform, Dream Action Coalition, along with dozens (if not hundreds) of other organizations, will be in Texas in 2014 supporting any primary opponent willing to give more concessions on immigration (and after the 2012 election, there should be a few Texan Republicans willing to do so). This will strongly encourage the aforementioned 38 percent not only to vote, but to vote against Cornyn in a primary that won't see many voters. If he survives this, then we bring our anti-Cornyn signs to demonstrations for the general election, and see how strongly that 38 percent can be rallied in a state rapidly turning blue due to immigration and shifting demographics.