The Republican-led Congress’ unrealistic effort to step-up the deportation of undocumented immigrants would be humorous if it wasn’t for the fact that lawmakers are toying with real people’s lives.
Congress voted 236-191 along party lines for a bill that would effectively stop President Obama’s efforts to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. For good measure, the Republicans added an amendment to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has stopped some 600,000 young undocumented immigrants, the so called “DREAMers,” from being deported and allowed them to work legally.
Luckily the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, and even if it did, the President would almost certainly veto it. But the Republican message to undocumented immigrants is loud and clear: we don’t want you here and we’ll try to deport you if we get a chance.
Imagine the dilemma for the undocumented parents of children who were born here and are thus American citizens. Do they stay in the shadows? What would happen to their children? Who do they believe?
There’s an implied racial dimension. Most of the undocumented immigrants are Hispanic, and nobody in the Republican party is clamoring to secure the border with Canada.
“President Obama is turning every state into a border state and every town into a border town,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Congresswoman from Tennessee who leads the effort to end the DREAMers program.
Blackburn represents a rural district in northwestern Tennessee. Not too far away, the cities of Dayton and Cincinnati in Ohio are actively recruiting immigrants — albeit legal ones — because of their track record in starting news businesses. Mayor John Cranley wants to make Cincinnati “the most immigrant-friendly city in the country.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that immigrants are more likely to be in the workforce and to be business owners than native-born Americans.
Those against immigration stress the legality: undocumented immigrants broke the law in entering the United States. But they did this because they wanted so much to become Americans. Why not tap these immigrants’ entrepreneurial drive by giving them a path to citizenship? Instead, the message is to stay hidden.
Wednesday’s vote played to the most conservative segments of the Republican base, the Tea Party in particular. But with Hispanics the fastest growing part of the U.S. population, the message on immigration cannot help Republicans recruit new voters in 2016 and beyond.
Hopefully for the Republican Party, Hispanic voters will have short memories. And hopefully for America, Congress will move beyond just saying “no” to addressing the long-festering immigration mess.
Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of Times of San Diego.