In various recent interviews over the past week, President Obama has slammed Republicans for refusing to cooperate with Democrats on passing either the DREAM Act or comprehensive immigration reform. “Under the pressures of partisanship and election year politics, most of the 11 Republican senators who voted for that [immigration] reform just four years ago have backed far away from that vote today,” said Obama during a speech to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “Without the kind of bipartisan effort we had just a few short years ago, we can’t get these reforms across the finish line.”
If the GOP’s “Pledge to America” is any indication, it doesn’t appear a bipartisan effort is going to happen any time soon. The 48-page pre-election document styled after 1994′s Contract with America ambiguously discusses immigration in its section on national security. Yet, despite being a hot-button issue this election season, none of the vaguely worded immigration bullet points reference immigration reform itself. In fact, during today’s press conference, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) evaded a question regarding the absence of an immigration reform platform:
REPORTER: What is the proposal on what to do about the 12 million, 12.5 million undocumented immigrants in this country?
BOEHNER: You’re asking about something that’s not in the document?
REPORTER: Yes, I think that a lot of Americans are debating comprehensive immigration reform and I’m wondering what the position is and frankly why it’s not in the document.
BOEHNER: Well I think it’s pretty clear in the document that the first steps for real immigration reform are to secure our borders and enforce our laws — two things that are in our Pledge to America.
The reporter tried to ask a follow-up question but was immediately cut off by Boehner who wanted to move on to the next question.
The “Pledge” does propose an enforcement-only approach to immigration and appears to endorse and promote Arizona-like immigration policies:
Work with State and Local Officials to Enforce Our Immigration Laws
The problem of illegal immigration and Mexican drug cartels engaged in an increasingly violent conflict means we need all hands on deck to address this challenge. We will reaffirm the authority of state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of all federal immigration laws.
Lumped in with proposals on Iran sanctions, missile defense, and terrorism, the “Pledge” also vows to “take actions to secure our borders, and that action starts with enforcing our laws.” The GOP apparently thinks it will accomplish this goal by simply giving border patrol the tools they need and prohibiting the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture “from interfering with Border Patrol enforcement activities on federal lands.”
The document also indirectly references the defense reauthorization bill which Republicans blocked this week in part because it included the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act as an amendment. Republicans argued that adding a provision that would have the potential effect of boosting U.S. military ranks to a defense bill was “extraneous.” The “Pledge” reaffirms the GOP’s commitment to blocking similar legislative action in the future by calling for “no more troop funding bills held up by unrelated policy changes, or extraneous domestic spending and pork-barrel projects.”
Given that 54% of all Americans regard the immigration issue as “very important” and that a majority of voters — across party lines — support immigration reform it’s surprising the GOP didn’t provide more details. It’s an especially big hole considering that Republicans have not hesitated to politicize the issue this election season.