GOP on Immigration: Change of Heart or “Long Con?”

Reps. Cory Gardner, Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, and Doug Lamborn.

Reps. Cory Gardner, Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, and Doug Lamborn.

Alex Altman writes for TIME Magazine:

Reformers have spent months waiting for House Republicans to lay out a plan to rewrite U.S. immigration law. Now that the GOP has finally made its move, they can’t agree what to make of it.

The blueprint released Thursday is “a game changer,” according to Tamar Jacoby, president of the pro-reform business coalition ImmigrationWorks USA. Or perhaps it’s “a joke,” as Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, told the Washington Post. “It’s a hoax is what it is. It’s like fool’s gold.” [Pols emphasis]

Reform advocates, who pored over the GOP’s 800-word “standards for immigration reform” with the fervor of NSA code breakers, came away divided about whether it represents a genuine effort to untangle one of the knottiest policy problems facing Congress. The divergent reactions proved that the immigration movement is no more a monolith than the famously fractious House Republican conference.

Here in Colorado, as the Denver Post's Allison Sherry reports today, immigrant advocates are largely positive:

[Immigration activist Ricardo] Martinez felt hopeful. He said if House Republicans, who control that chamber and the current destiny of immigration reform, want to make it easier for law-abiding yet undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status, it could be possible for that same group of people to eventually become citizens.

"We can have a conversation about no special path to citizenship," said Martinez, who runs Padres Unidos and regularly flies to the nation's capital for immigrant advocacy. "No one was ever asking for a special path. … At least they're here. It's good there is a conversation going here."

Speaking with Rep. Cory Gardner, who these days appears to lead the Colorado GOP congressional delegation, Sherry heard lip service paid to "moving ahead" on at least one line-item within the larger debate over immigration reform:

"There are people in the conference … I'm not quite sure where they're at," Gardner said. "I don't know what would satisfy them. … We shouldn't wait. It's been over a year now since we said border security was important, and here we are with no border-security bill moving out of the House. The longer we wait, the longer the system continues to be broken."

According to Sherry, Gardner doesn't want to "start a conversation" about what to do with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States "until the border is secure." In the past, this is the same language used by Republicans which was denounced by immigration reform proponents as a false promise–it's doubtful the border would ever be "secure" enough to make Republicans happy, so calling for all manner of pie-in-the-sky reforms "once the border is secure" is a way to placate reform advocates without actually committing to anything. That's one of the reasons why reform proponents have always preferred a comprehensive bill, like what passed the Senate last year, ensuring all aspects of this complex problem are addressed. Despite that, as you can read above, many reform proponents, even up to President Barack Obama himself, are responding favorably. Others remain skeptical.

The rest of the Republican congressional delegation, Reps. Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, and Doug Lamborn, all declined comment for Allison Sherry's story today.

Politically, the fight over immigration reform this year affects Coffman more than any other Republican in the Colorado delegation. Formerly a hard-line anti-immigrant Republican in the mold of his predecessor Tom Tancredo, redistricting has forced Coffman to dramatically soften his rhetoric. Coffman no longer represents Tancredo's base of support, and now represents one of the most competitive districts in America. Since barely surviving in 2012 against a second-tier opponent, Coffman is rhetorically a changed man on the issue of immigration–calling for, among other things, a path to citizenship for undocumented children who enlist in the military.

Unfortunately for Coffman, that rhetoric has worn thin after he was given critical subsequent opportunities to vote his newfound conscience on actual legislation–and he failed to do so.

After Obama's address last week, Coffman's response angered Democrats for being belligerently out-of-step with even fellow Republicans, many of whom were offering conciliatory statements after a strong performance by the President. Political liberals hammered Coffman on immigration in particular, saying "it appears that Coffman has been playing immigration reform supporters for fools the whole time." That message went out mere hours before the GOP released their new "principles" on immigration–which, it should be noted, Coffman has yet to publicly endorse.

With the scene laid, we'll pose the question to our readers: should Republican gestures toward immigration reform be taken in good faith by Democrats? Can the "piecemeal" approach advocated by Republicans, apparently starting with "border security," produce acceptable results in an election year? Should immigration reform proponents "go easy" on Republicans, especially Coffman, in hope of obtaining results? Even in an election year? Or is this whole effort by Republicans just a delaying action to keep the issue at bay through November?

The answers to these questions, safe to say, are consequential.

34 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:


  2. JBJK16 says:

    Long con. Any discussion about immigration reform that starts with. "secure the borders" in a country that doesn't even check all the containers, let alone people and has no chance of physically closing the borders is not sincere.

    The US should annex Mexico, if not in fact, de facto, all the way to Guatemala. US border checkpoints should start in Chiapas and Capeche.  To get started, we should invite the northern border states to collaborate with US border patrol. Yes, this means direct armed engagement with the cartels.

  3. ParkHill says:

    Of course it's not in good faith. With the Republican Party it is always about the politics & power (well, that and lowering taxes for the wealthy). It is never about policy or solving the actual problem. 

    So, the real question is what effect will talk about immigration reform have on the Republican primaries. 

  4. davebarnesdavebarnes says:

    Which GOP?
    Businessmen? Tea Partiers? Evangelicals? Gun nuts?

    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

      I was being sarcastic, Dave. There are some corporatists that might go for the idea, low -wage momentum, and such. But, given the current phobias that control the dominant Republican narrative, an idea like that would be completely dismissed by most Republicans I know.

      Besides, the Mexican people might have a couple of thoughts on the matter that should be considered. In fact here is some reporting from an irrefutable source…

      Mexicans are jumping at a chance for U.S. statehood, say sources.  72 percent of Mexicans say they would welcome become a state in the United States.

      Some Republicans are objecting to the initiative.  “We should we make them Americans?  Just so they can siesta all day, draw welfare checks, eat tacos and won’t have to worry about border guards leaning on them.  It’s ridiculous.  We’re the only Americans in North America!”

      …the Weekly World News…laugh



  5. ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

    The GOP Principles on Immigration are just a bunch of pandering to nativists. Are they a slight improvement on things from before? Yes. However, there are many cliches within that make little sense such as:
    1) "Border Security and Interior Enforcement Must Come First" – Not really. 
    2) re: legalization: "one of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced." – so long as the person passes the background screening, what does it matter if some unrelated immigration law that DOES NOT THEN APPLY TO THIS PERSON is being enforced? Simple – it doesn't. 
    3) "zero tolerance policy for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their visas in the future" – so long as the person passes an inspection at normalization, it should not be dispositive whether they came in illegally or overstayed. 
    4) "it is unacceptable that the majority of employees have their work eligibility verified through a paper based system wrought with fraud. " – actually, it is unacceptable that the government is in the business of determining whether somebody is "eligible" to work in the first place. That is a private matter between consenting adults. 

  6. Gray in Mountains says:

    As soon as Steve King mouths off other Rs will line up with him. Then, anyu pretense of GOP confomity of thought on immigration will be gone. John Cornyn has a Tea bag primary. He'll never go for this humanity

  7. hawkeye says:

    It's not a change in the Republican heart, it's a change in strategy … if they can get a third of the Hispanic vote, then the effort would be viewed as successful.  

    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

      Anyone who trusts the word of any member of todays' Republican leadership is a fool. There were once Republicans who were honorable, trustworthy public servants. Those days are long gone. Will honesty and integrity ever surface in the Republican party again?…doubtful.


      • BlueCatBlueCat says:

        They keep running up against the reality that they aren't going to do better with Hispanics or women by somehow presenting the same hated policies in a nicer tone. How do you say the things they have to say to please their base nicely? Not to mention how impossible it's been for them to prevent so many GOTP pols and rightie media celebrities from saying what they really think

    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      I don't think that's very likely. 

  8. DavieDavie says:

    But now of course, the GOP's failed immigration strategy that is roundly rejected by their own members is entirely Obama's fault:

    Perhaps realizing the odds of finding a consensus on immigration are long, the Republicans have started telling voters that if the GOP-led House doesn't take action this election year, it is Obama's fault.

    "If the president had been serious about this the last five years, we'd be further along in this discussion," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, said Sunday.

    Yeah, that's the ticket!

    Really, Stephen Colbert couldn't put it any better 🙂

  9. I'll join the crowd: Long Con.

    And probably not a very long Long Con at that. The Steve Kings of the party won't be able to hold it in for more than a week or two before this latest attempt at "message reform" falls flat on its face. That's really all this looks like: message reform. This document says the GOP still believes it has the right policy with the wrong smiling face. They'll send Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz back to the front lines to show how inclusive they at the same time they tell Rubio that "real" immigration reform needs to look like the House "plan" and not the Senate bill, all the while hoping that King keeps his mouth shut long enough to convince a Latino voter or two that Republicans are really changing with the times.

Leave a Reply

Comment from your Facebook account

You may comment with your Colorado Pols account above (click here to register), or via Facebook below.