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Where Conservatives Stand on Immigration Reform

John A. Boehner Speaker of the United States House of RepresentativesAs has been widely reported, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the following at a speech in Ohio last week when talking about his colleagues and why they didn’t want to move on immigration reform: “Here’s the attitude: ‘Ohhh, don’t make me do this. Ohhh, this is too hard.’”

Boehner now says his remarks were misunderstood. Fine. But let’s make sure there is no misunderstanding on where conservatives stand on this issue. The fact is that conservatives are in favor of immigration reform. We simply aren’t in favor of amnesty. Reform should be done in a step-by-step approach, and it should make securing our borders and modernizing our legal immigration system the first orders of business.

But here is the reality of the current environment on Capitol Hill.

Does anyone seriously believe the House can pass a bill, or series of bills, after going through the House-Senate conference process that won’t include amnesty? Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and the Gang of Eight are committed to amnesty being part of any immigration legislation coming out of Congress.

And does anyone believe President Obama won’t pull out his phone, pen, and other grossly exaggerated executive powers to further reinvent the bill to his liking? Based on his track record of ignoring Congress and making changes to the health care law more than 30 times, why would he not employ those tactics here?

Nothing has changed about what Obama and liberals want when it comes to immigration. They want amnesty first and everything else second—if ever.

Even if the House passed a bill that was primarily aimed at securing our borders, the Senate would add on a host of other measures, including amnesty. The last time we went that route, under President Reagan in 1986, the only aspect of the bill that got enforced was the part giving more than 3 million illegal immigrants amnesty. The border security provisions never got enacted. And what are the results? Today we have an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S.

Not only is the current debate likely leading to bad policy, it is also bad politics.

Understandably and rightly, the GOP wants to win over more Hispanic voters. But they are wrong to think the way to do that is to support some version of amnesty. Polls have consistently shown Hispanic voters put issues such as unemployment and health care ahead of immigration policies.

As I discussed with Lou Dobbs on his show Monday night, the reality is that all this chatter about an immigration (aka amnesty) plan is a surefire way to depress conservative turnout in November, which could be the difference between Republicans winning and losing the Senate. Whatever “pathway” the House GOP might try to create, Obama and Senate Democrats will turn it in to an amnesty superhighway.

We need immigration reform. But we don’t need the kind we’ve tried before that failed. And in today’s Washington, that is exactly what we’ll get.

Heritage Foundation

 

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