A History Of Republican Excuses For Procrastinating On Immigration Reform

CREDIT: SEIU via Flickr

House Republicans have been sitting on immigration reform for months, with many claiming along the way that they’d love to pass a bill, but conditions are simply not right. Most recently, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) took advantage of current media hubbub over the Obamacare rollout to doom immigration reform legislation, arguing that the website glitches prove any Democrat-backed legislation is flawed.

Cantor’s invocation of the Obamacare rollout is just the latest example in a long string of reasons Republicans have seized upon to block immigration reform for a little longer. In fact, though Republicans now say there is no more time to pass a bill this year, lawmakers have been procrastinating on immigration reform for most of Obama’s presidency.

We can’t pass immigration reform because…

Obamacare passed. (March 2010)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), now considered one of the strongest backers of comprehensive reform, threw a tantrum after the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, declaring immigration reform “dead” because the health care bill “poisoned the well” for any future bipartisan negotiations. “When I say immigration’s dead in the Senate, risk-aversion abounds,” he said.

There’s still a Mexican drug war. (April 2010)
One month later, as the Obama administration began pushing for an immigration bill, Graham again insisted immigration reform was dead, this time because Mexican drug war violence was not yet solved. As the Hill reported, Graham argued that Congress could not consider any action on immigration before the drug war was addressed, and certainly could not take it up in 2010. “I believe we can do it by 2012 if we’re smart and address the big elephant in the room — the borders are not secure and there’s a [drug] war going on,” he said.

Obama used an executive order to legalize some undocumented youths. (October 2012)
After the DREAM Act failed, Obama’s Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) became the latest excuse to postpone immigration reform. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who recently abandoned the Senate reform bill he himself drafted, accused Obama of “poison[ing] the well for people willing to take on this issue”.

Sequestration forced Homeland Security to release some detainees. (February 2013)
Automatic budget cuts in March prompted immigration detention centers to release non-violent detainees, enraging Republicans who saw the move as politically rather than financially motivated. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) immediately blamed the DHS decision for derailing Republican interest in immigration reform, saying it “undermines our efforts to come together with the administration and reform our nation’s immigration laws.” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a strident opponent of reform, also seized the opportunity to scapegoat the Obama administration for “further reduc[ing] the chances of reaching a bipartisan immigration accord.”

The Boston Marathon bomber was an immigrant. (April 2013)
Soon after the Tsarnaev brothers carried out a horrific attack on the Boston Marathon, Republicans demanded a halt to immigration reform. Tea Party lawmakers like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) asserted that the bombings showed any path to legal status would endanger Americans, and that radical Islamists “are trained to act Hispanic.” Even less radical Republican Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) said reform advocates should put the bill “on hold” for “a month or two” because lawmakers were bound to legislate “an emotional reaction” to the bombing.

The Obamacare employer mandate was delayed. (July 2013)
In July, House Republicans zeroed in on the one-year delay of the Obamacare employer mandate as proof that the administration could not be trusted to enforce the Senate immigration bill’s border security measures. House GOP leadership released a statement confirming they would take no action on the Senate bill, claiming that Americans “don’t trust a Democratic-controlled Washington.” The statement read, “The president has also demonstrated he is willing to unilaterally delay or ignore significant portions of laws he himself has signed, raising concerns among Americans that this administration cannot be trusted to deliver on its promises to secure the border and enforce laws as part of a single, massive bill like the one passed by the Senate.”

Debate over Syria intervention was taking too long. (September 2013)
Citing Congressional debate over intervention in Syria’s bloody civil war, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) dismissed any chance of immigration reform getting passed before 2015. “A lot of us thought that the debate was going to be in October, but now, with the problems that we’re having internationally and also here in this country, I don’t see how we’re going to be able to have this debate until November,” he said. “And I really don’t know if it will be possible to do it in November.”

Obama’s refusal to negotiate during the shutdown hurt Republicans’ feelings. (October 2013)
After Republicans shut down the government in hopes of defunding or delaying Obamacare, many lawmakers said Obama’s refusal to give in had sabotaged immigration reform for the rest of the year. Labrador took up the line shortly after the shutdown ended, declaring that House Republicans’ negotiation over immigration would be “a very big mistake” because it would let Obama win again. “He’s trying to destroy the Republican party,” Labrador said. “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.” Rubio echoed Labrador a couple days later. “The president has undermined this effort, absolutely, because of the way he has behaved over the last three weeks,” he said, warning that Republicans whose pride had been hurt would no longer be willing to “get in a room and negotiate a deal with the president on immigration.” Even Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a proponent of immigration reform, argued that House Republicans could hardly be expected to pass immigration reform when they were not even capable of keeping the government running. “We’re not sure we can chew gum, let alone walk and chew gum, so let’s just chew gum for a while,” Cole said. has technical difficulties. (November 2013)
Cantor deployed the botched Obamacare rollout to excuse the fact that House leadership has refused to call a floor vote on the Senate bill, even though it would pass with bipartisan support. When pressed by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Cantor said, “A bill like Obamacare or a bill like the Senate immigration bill produces the kinds of impact and effect that we’re seeing this week and last week and the prior. We don’t want to commit that same mistake.”