As regular readers know, I’m not keen on any of the recent proposals for immigration reform. Fundamentally, they are giveaways to big business with the bare minimum done for the immigrant community itself. And the most recent proposal to allow undocumented residents to become documented but not citizens is just madness. It would develop a kind of two-tier citizenship. Of course, I don’t suppose it really matters given that the pathway to citizenship of the other proposals was so long.
Of course, even this most recent proposal isn’t going to happen anyway. All of the Republican plans that don’t cut taxes on the rich and increase military spending are subject to what Jonathan Chait calls The Heritage Uncertainty Principle. I’ve written about this many times before, but I never came up with such a spiffy moniker. The idea is that Republicans only come up with policy plans as political cover. As soon as it looks like a plan might become actual legislation, the plan disappears because the Republicans who had proposed it turn against it. The best example is Obamacare, hence the name Heritage Uncertainty Principle.
A more recent example is immigration reform. And the newest occurrence of it was when Democrats accepted the Republican immigration reform plan that had no pathway to citizenship. As soon as it looked like it might actually pass: poof! It was gone because Republicans claimed that they can’t trust President Obama to implement it. Of course this is not surprising. The Republican base still thinks that giving legal status to undocumented residents is “amnesty.” So any immigration reform that is anything but “guard the border and deport more people” will never be acceptable.
Yesterday, Chuck Schumer called the Republicans to task on this issue. On Meet the Press, he said:
I don’t think Schumer is serious about this. But it is a great gambit. It highlights a few things about the Republicans. First and foremost, it calls them to task. If the issue really is Obama, then let’s take Obama out of the equation. But the truth is that this isn’t about Obama. The Republicans said the exact same things about Bill Clinton. So if there is a Democrat in the White House in 2017, they won’t trust him or her.
But I don’t think that the Republicans will be willing to admit that they can’t trust any Democrat ever. Instead, I think they will fall back to what they really believe: this newest watered down plan would still reward those terrible people who risked life and limb to come to the shining beacon of opportunity that is the America of legend. You know: amnesty! And that will be that. Real immigration reform will have to wait until the Democrats are in charge. If the Republicans get control, they aren’t going to pass anything other than some minor reforms to allow more H1-B visas and more guards at the Mexico border.
The truth is that I get annoyed every time liberal commentators get excited at the prospect of immigration reform. It’s never real. Meanwhile, every time it happens, people’s expectations get lower as to what reform looks like. I fear that eventually a bill to increase H1-B visas will make Greg Sargent jump for joy. It’s important to remember that the Republicans have not done their greatest harm through legislation. They have done it by moving the entire political playing field to the right. They’ve more or less made actual liberal policy unthinkable. And they continue to do it with the Heritage Uncertainty Principle.