"The American people, including many of my members, don't trust that the reform that we're talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be," said Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH). With those words, Boehner signaled a 180 degree change from his stance just last week, when he came out with the GOP principles on immigration reform to encourage legislation. While it is unsurprising that the Tea Party and far right activists are able to strong-arm Boehner into making concessions, it's making headlines that they are still able turn him into a different person in under a week. If Boehner thinks that this is going to get any easier next year, when the Presidential season will begin, it's only because he's been so thoroughly spun around by his party's right fringe that he has completely lost his orientation.
Late last year, Boehner came out swinging, giving a press conference where he was harshly critical of the involvement of outside groups in the shutdown, and had a thinly-veiled outburst at a press conference with the Heritage Foundation. This was after a long year of legislative failure, thoroughly tarnishing his legacy as Speaker of the House, the one who decides on what legislation is voted on in the House of Representatives. Once the pressure from the right fringe of his party weighed down on him, however, he caved worse than the Broncos.
Right now, the million-dollar question is when does Boehner expect to get immigration done if not this year? The Super Bowl-esque reality show that the presidential campaign season has morphed into has already started: Chris Christie flamed out when the magnifying glass of national speculation came to rest on him, digging into the scandal he had as Governor, perhaps destroying his political career. Right now, politicians are looking to stay away from controversial legislation, and this will only intensify until after all the 2016 votes are tallied.
After midterm elections, all eyes will drift towards presidential speculation, and immigration brings with it a unique dilemma with today's GOP political demographics: nobody pushing for immigration reform can survive a GOP primary (i.e. Jon Huntsman, the man who jumped into the clown car primary in 2012, but refused to wear the big shoes or makeup), nobody pushing against can win a national election (i.e. Mitt Romney, who lost over 70 percent of both the Latino and Asian and Pacific Islander vote, which winning the majority of the white vote no longer can make up for).
Is a narrative on immigration really what Boehner wants the GOP to fall into in 2016, cementing the impressions of the "self-deportation" campaign even further? The 11 million undocumented immigrants we have in this country won't self-deport, and the political pressure from having so many people on the margins of society because of politics will continue to at least occasionally grab the spotlight until something is done. So far, the only thing Boehner has come out with to refute accusations of being unreasonable is that his party does not trust Obama to enforce immigration.
If the only thing protecting the GOP from the echoes of the "self-deportation" campaign of 2012 bleeding into 2014 and continuing into 2016 is John Boehner saying that the President needs to work on rebuilding trust with Republicans to get an immigration law, they don't have a chance nationally.
The biggest complaint amongst the immigrant community is that Obama has broken the deportation record every year (with two exceptions that were still pretty close), spent more money on immigration than on any other federal law enforcement, has a detention facility quota (you're welcome GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America) and other enforcement measures, which have drawn sharp criticism from immigrant rights activists, along with jabs like the "Deporter-in-Chief."
Right now, Republican politics are rough, with the Tea Party and Chamber of Commerce wings fighting it out. Nowhere is this more visible than on immigration: both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as many state and local Chambers, have come out strongly for immigration reform as a way to improve the still-lagging economy.
Putting an immigration bill to a vote to isolate the relatively-small right fringe of the party in time for midterm elections would be one way to retake power from what Charles Krauthammer has dubbed the "Suicide Caucus" that drove us into a shutdown last year. This is because, even if Boehner has to pass immigration with a minority of the GOP House, it will show the right fringe that they are more isolated than they realize when legislation passes over their strongest, most desperate objections. It will also show those on the fence who vote with the Tea Party out of fear of a primary challenge that they won't win if they side with the Tea Party and jump to the right every time.
Come election time, neither Boehner, nor his party, can hide behind the Deporter-in-Chief's enforcement record. The same network that stopped deportation busses, reunited families through border fences and set up a fasting tent in D.C. will still be active at GOP fundraisers, Social Media, in Washington D.C. and probably even in that little café that Boehner likes to get his breakfast at.
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