Jonathan Chait wrote this morning that immigration reform is different this time. He focused on the conservative push back against the Heritage Foundation paper than said that immigration reform would cost us a trillion dollars and cause us all to die of syphilis next year. As he correctly noted, this paper is actually not any worse than other papers conservatives accepted like Paul Ryan’s budget causing unemployment to drop to 3% and that the Bush tax cuts would pay for themselves.
All of this is true, and yet I don’t think that immigration reform is really different this time. What you have to understand is that the modern Republican Party doesn’t really make compromises. Steve Benen wrote an article yesterday at Maddow Blog about Eric Cantor’s new Republican rebranding campaign. The great new idea is to appeal to women with a media blitz. And what are they going to tell women? Only that they should support the “Working Families Flexibility Act.” That is a euphemism, of course. It should be called the “Employer Flexibility to Screw Employees Act.” It is an idea that the Republican Party has been pushing for decades. My point is that even when Republicans reach out to a group of people, they aren’t willing to do anything; it’s just, “You should love us just the way we are because we ain’t changing a thing.”
The same thing is going on in the immigration bill. There has always been a large part of the Republican elite who want immigration reform. Let’s face it: it’s good for business. In the long term, it is good for everyone. In the short term, it is good for Walmart. The business interests who will lose out on more legal workers are small and weak. So the Republican leadership wants this and always has. What’s different this time is that they lost last time. Before, they thought with a Republican president, they would be able to get their law. Now they know they have to fight for it.
And look at how typical the conservative response to the Heritage paper was. Those who are against immigration reform embraced it; those who are for immigration reform denounced it. And yes, those denouncing it did it with facts. But conservatives are fine with facts when they are helpful. But facts have no relationship to truth for them. They are just rhetorical devices. All we are seeing now is an argument between two sides that has long existed in the Republican Party. There’s nothing new here.