A Curious Bystander

Megan Chrisler, Features Editor

Many hoped that immigration reform would finally happen in Washington, and surprisingly from Republicans. Speaker of the House, John Boehner, was ready to push through legislation that included giving a path to legalization for illegal immigrants. However, it quickly died; Boehner said that, “There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws,” perhaps alluding to the botched healthcare rollout, among other things.

But, as has been mentioned before, Republicans could simply place enactment of the new law the day President Barack Obama leaves office. By then, the November elections would be over and Republicans would have more seats in the Senate. This assumes that trust in the Obama administration is the real issue with immigration reform, which it isn’t. We all know that the real reason Boehner had to kill it is because of the GOP’s conservative base and the looming elections this year.

I have often decried the division between Democrats and Republicans, and still do, as a major problem in today’s politics. The division within the Republican party may be just as problematic, and not just for Republicans. NPR’s Mara Liasson, among others, has noted that the Republican party needs to recruit more Hispanic voters, which would make immigration reform ideal, but its conservative base just won’t take it. A path to legalization, even without full citizenship rights, is seen as amnesty by right-wing activists; any reform after such a label is quickly dispelled. The contention between the GOP’s conservative base and basically everyone else in the country hinders a lot of progressive legislation.

Their main concern is rewarding criminal acts, which is a legitimate fear. But is a path to legalization rewarding criminal behavior, or fixing it? Boehner’s legislation, according to NPR, did not include actual voting rights and full citizenship, but a mere promise of not being deported. Is this true amnesty? Is it unethical to provide the chance to become legalized to those who want it?

What scares reasonable Republicans is not amnesty, but the elections in November. They screwed up with the government shutdown last year, and they had the sense not to make the same mistake again this time. They will be picking up more seats in the Senate, and even have a shot at getting a majority. Why screw it up with a controversial immigration bill?

Between the Republican primaries and hard-right wing activists, then, immigration reform looks to be postponed indefinitely. As Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, has said, “Immigration is just one of those issues that’s difficult politically. And I don’t know if there’s ever a perfect time for immigration reform. In some ways it’s like dealing with entitlement reform. Has there ever been a good political time to deal with that?”

This is sad news for potential American citizens who are unable to receive the education, healthcare and jobs that they need. But many Millikin students are eligible to vote this November, and you can remember this when going to the voting booths.