As Congress works toward a final deal that reopens the government and narrowly averts the debt ceiling crisis, President Obama has made clear he intends to redouble efforts on immigration reform. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), once a key Republican in immigration talks, does not intend on making that easy. Declaring immigration reform is dead, Labrador told the Huffington Post that the House cannot pass any bill, comprehensive or piecemeal, because that would let Obama win again after he came out on top over the debt ceiling.
“For us to go to a negotiation, to the negotiating table with President Obama after what he has done over the last two and a half weeks, I think would be probably a very big mistake,” he said, according to the Huffington Post. Even if the House were to pass a piecemeal bill based on GOP demands, Labrador said “it would be crazy” to go to conference with the Senate’s passed version because Senate Majority Leader Harry Read negotiates in a take-no-prisoners style.
His theory why Obama will pivot to immigration reform is to deliver a final blow to Republicans reeling from the latest fiscal crises:
“I think what he has done over the past two and a half weeks — he’s trying to destroy the Republican party. I think that anything we do right now with this president on immigration will be with that same goal in mind, which is to destroy the Republican party and not to get good policies.”
Labrador abandoned the House Gang of Eight on immigration in early June, under a similar premise that negotiations brought him nowhere. As a former immigration attorney, he also promised to have immigration reform done “by the end of this year.” Before that, he flatly rejected a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, even though it has broad support from his own party.
Far from destroying the GOP, comprehensive immigration reform with citizenship would help lawmakers reach nonwhite voters that count as a growing share of the voter population. Recent polls in predominantly Hispanic districts confirm that roughly 70 percent of voters would like to see the Senate plan adopted.
However, Labrador maintains that fixing the immigration system is “not worth it” if House Republicans must compromise.