Monday, April 22, 2013

Pulling Out All the Stops

Last week, we observed the mounting "tea party" campaign to kill comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) legislation in Congress by invoking the Boston Marathon Attack. Never mind that Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were granted legal asylum, and ultimately citizenship. At the very least, CIR would not have expedited the Tsarnaev brothers' plot. If anything, it may have given law enforcement more tools to prevent this tragedy!

However, that didn't stop Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) from continuing to peddle wildly inaccurate "tea party" conspiracy theories. Yet oddly enough, he also denied he ever went there! Yes, go ahead and see the madness for yourself. This is from today's Senate CIR hearing.

During a hearing on Friday, Grassley argued that “[g]iven the events of this week, it’s important to understand the gaps and loopholes” in the immigration system. “While we don’t yet know the immigration status of people who terrorized the the communities in Massachusetts, when we find out, it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system.”

And Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) didn't stop there. He continued calling out both the radical & xenophobia fueled opposition to CIR. He also pointed out the nefarious delay tactics opponents are trying to use to kill the bill.

Perhaps Senator Schumer paid close attention to what Ezra Klein wrote this morning.

“I call Washington ‘the city of the perishable,’” Nancy Pelosi once told me. Anything left out on the floor of Congress too long runs the risk of spoiling.

The conservatives massing to stop immigration reform agree with Pelosi. This push for immigration reform, they hope, is perishable. And as long as it doesn’t come for a vote anytime soon, it can spoil — or be spoiled.

So they’re grasping at anything that can delay it. At Friday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Chuck Grassley spent his entire opening statement emphasizing the need for less speed. “Unfortunately, I think that we’re kind of off to a rough start from the standpoint that the majority is rushing to read and analyze the bill,” he said. One unsavory reason he gave for slowing down the bill: “While we don’t yet know the immigration status of people who have terrorized the communities in Massachusetts, when we find out, it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system.”

Seeing the danger of tying the Boston bombers to the proposal, Sen. Lindsey Graham replied from the Sunday shows. “What happened in Boston and international terrorism I think should urge us to act quicker, not slower,” he said on CNN, arguing that passing the bill would mean strengthening border security and better tracking who is actually here. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office also harshly rebutted Grassley’s comments.

The other advantage of slowing the bill down is that it creates an opening to oppose the law — or at least its progress — without opposing the law itself. It could even allow some senators to have it both ways. A key dynamic to watch as reform grinds on is where Rubio falls on the calls to endlessly lengthen the schedule. If, as conservative opposition mounts, he joins with those who want a slower process, he could help the anti-immigration forces on their key tactical priorities for killing immigration reform even as he publicly supports the bill itself.

Even if the law passes the Senate, it will be mired in the House. “The bill will be immediately sent to the committees, and then either sent back to the Senate with changes, or rewritten in a bicameral conference committee,” reports Robert Costa. “That tweaking process could take months, which is just fine with many Republicans, who’d like the public to have as much time as possible to chew over the controversial elements of Obama’s prized bills. The caucus consensus is: The more time Congress takes to consider a bill, the more time the public has to sour on its components.”

They know this is their best path, and perhaps their only available path, to kill CIR in Congress. Just stretch out the process and find more excuses to delay even further. And then, just hope that the process becomes so toxic that bill can no longer survive.

They have to do this because their arguments have no basis in reality. As mentioned above, the "TERRORISM!!!" panic is completely illogical. And the economic case doesn't make sense, either. Former Commerce Secretary (under President George W. Bush) Carlos Gutierrez recently refuted this.

And this is backed up by actual data. CIR can actually help American born workers along with immigrant workers. And overall, CIR stands to help the American economy build and maintain a competitive advantage. Just watch out when trying to explain this to the "tea party".

But really, they don't care about the (lack of) veracity of their argument. They're now just flinging crap to the walls of Congress and hoping enough sticks to kill the bill. That's why the increasingly infamous Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) just wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Searchlight, Don't Forget It) demanding CIR "address national security concerns". (Never mind that it already does & probably does so in a more effective way than what Rand Paul wants!) So of course, this quickly led to fellow 2016 Presidential Candidate Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), himself a Gang of 8 member (??!!), promising to address "flaws in our immigration system that were exposed by the attack."

And in case this latest outbreak of "tea party" madness isn't enough, expect even more. They're continuing to attack Marco Rubio for even joining the Gang of 8, and they now have these lovely buttons to display their opposition to CIR in a very special way. In addition, co-founder and particularly loud "tea party" pundit Erick Erikson declared, "Count me out!" (of the Gang of 8 CIR compromise).

What's so disgustingly funny about this is that the virulent "tea party" opposition to the Gang of 8 CIR bill might lead some to believe their bill is so "wildly & radically progressive". But really, it isn't. In fact, their bill appropriates even more federal funds for even more militarization of the US-Mexico Border while subjecting undocumented immigrants to a 13 year path to citizenship! Oh, and the bill (as is) fails to address the plight of LGBTQ families. That's what led a former Republican Member of Congress to speak out today.

"I know, as the partner of an immigrant how difficult it can be to build a life and protect the system under the current system," he said. "While this is an excellent starting point, I submit to you it is still incomplete. Families like mine are left behind as part of the proposal."

Immigrant and gay rights groups were disappointed last week when the "Gang of 8's" bipartisan immigration bill did not include measures allowing Americans to bring same-sex partners or spouses from abroad on family visas. Because of the Defense Of Marriage Act, now under review by the Supreme Court, the federal government is barred from recognizing gay marriages for immigration purposes, forcing many families into effective exile abroad.

"My partner was born in Panama and came to the United States on a scholarship to pursue [a graduate degree] in special education," [Former Rep. Jim] Kolbe [R-Arizona], who was outed in 1996 after voting in favor of DOMA, said. "He has been a dedicated teacher for almost two decades. He was...was forced to turn to Panama when his visa expired. The separation was painful."

Kolbe and his fiance are planning to marry in DC next month. It just took an incredibly long and expensive visa process to get them there. And as of now, the Gang of 8 bill does nothing to fix this. President Obama has endorsed inclusion of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in CIR legislation, and at least a few Senators have expressed interest in adding UAFA to the Gang of 8 bill as an amendment.

The Gang of 8 bill truly is a compromise. It includes some priorities that progressives care about, along with priorities that conservatives care about. And it addresses a long standing problem that needs to be solved... Well, a decade ago.

But again, even this is just too much for the G-O-TEA. So they're pulling out all the stops to kill the bill. And now, we're left (again) to see which way Senator Dean Heller (R-TEA Curious) is blowing to determine the fate of immigration reform. It may ultimately depend on how much "TEA" Heller decides to drink.

Oh, joy... (/snark)

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