Shotgun wedding on immigrationPublished 12:25pm Friday, February 1, 2013
The term “shotgun wedding” refers to a hastily arranged wedding between a pregnant woman and the male who contributed to that condition. Its purpose is to avoid potential embarrassment rather than a desire on the part of the participants.
That phrase is an apt description of the Republican openness to a major overhaul in U.S. immigration laws.
Recall that it was only a brief year ago, during the Republican presidential primaries, when Rick Perry, the very conservative Governor of Texas, was thought of as too liberal on immigration for his expressed idea of solving the problem without “self-deportation” (a Romney invention).
But election sometimes brings change, and losing the growing Hispanic vote by the widest margin in decades has made republicans receptive to revisions in immigration law, though their enthusiasm is muted and their intent questionable.
Certainly the Republican Party of today wants Hispanic votes and needs Hispanics to believe Republicans are committed to Hispanic interests and values, among those a solution to decades of illegal immigration that has resulted in approximately 11 million illegal resident in the U.S.
But, on the other hand, Republicans have used extreme rhetoric on immigration to win primary elections, which draw out the most conservative Republican voters, for years. Until November 2012, the official Republican position was that of their presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, that illegals should just … leave.
Now with immigration reform forced on the party of “Go Home” how do Republicans navigate the tricky transition among their followers from “Go Home” to “Welcome?”
John Boehner give a hint in his recent challenge that he was concerned President Obama might tilt the immigration conversation to “the left,” an ambiguous statement at first blush, but clear upon further examination.
Following the Boehner statement was the Republican lead supporter of immigration, Florida Senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate, Mario Rubio. Rubio voiced his concern that the immigration conversation not be shifted to the least and lowest denominator for appeal to Hispanics.
Both Boehner and Rubio are attempting to position immigration reform to an acceptable construct for the most conservative Republican voters, who may not support any form of immigration change at the end of the day.
Their strategy is to construct two baffles to genuine immigration reform, baffles that allow Republicans to argue they support change and acceptance, but intend outcomes that, in practice, maintain the status quo of Go Home.
Republicans will fight for more border security before any change in immigration policy is enacted. That is, any plan is contingent upon the impossible before reform: so long as illegals can cross the border, reform is not initiated.
And while both border security and expulsions have increased over the last decade, the standard Republicans will adopt is zero border violations. This policy will have the effect, if adopted, of publicly supporting change, but effectively denying change.
The second Republican standard for immigration reform is to construct a path to citizenship that is so expensive and onerous that it remains, in practical terms, impossible to achieve for the broad majority of immigrants.
Again, this strategy allows Republicans to theoretically support immigration reform without changing anything.
Both strategies allow Republicans to go to their supporters and rightfully claim they have remained true to the “Go Home” views held by the Far Right, yet advertise publicly that they voted for reform.
If Republicans stick to this agenda, then once again immigration reform will not happen.
The chances for genuine reform remain slim at best.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.