Earlier this year, the terms “amnesty”, “comprehensive”, “executive action”, and “reform” filled the media as President Obama and the Democrats vocalized their plans for the undocumented population. Over the last few weeks, the roles have reversed. Since Obama’s decision to delay executive action, Democrats have been virtually silent, except for the moments when they were forced, by hecklers, to comment on the issue.
When immigration protesters interrupted Obama at the rally for Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke on Wednesday October 29th, Obama calmed the crowd who, in support, had immediately began chanting his name, and addressed one protester: “The young lady is expressing her concern about immigration and the fact that we don’t have a comprehensive immigration [reform] bill. The problem is she should be protesting the Republicans who are blocking it in Congress. That’s what she should be doing. Because I’m for it.”
Unlike Democrats, Republicans seem to be approaching immigration questions directly:
First, the RNC promised to block executive action. “While I can’t speak for the legislature, I’m very confident we will stop that,” Reince Priebus, Chair of the Republican National Committee, said regarding unilateral immigration reform on a conference call attended by hundreds of Tea Party supporters. “We will do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen: Defunding, going to court, injunction. You name it. It’s wrong. It’s illegal. And for so many reasons, and just the basic fabric of this country, we can’t allow it to happen and we won’t let it happen.”
Then, on Fox News Sunday, Mitt Romney predicted from a GOP Senate, “a provision first of all to secure the border, second of all to deal with those who have come here illegally and third [to] make sure our immigration policies are open and transparent.”
What do these comments mean for undocumented populations who have been awaiting favorable government action?
A favorable comprehensive immigration bill from a GOP Senate seems unlikely. Harry Reid and a Democratic Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill that secured the borders, created a path to legalization, and overhauled the current system. Nevertheless, the Republican House refused to pass it. In light of recent immigration proposals such as the HUMANE Act and the anti-DACA proposal, the Republican’s brand of comprehensive reform would likely feature mass deportations that would displace thousands of families and return more than 60,000 minors to violent countries.
Reince Priebus’ statement suggests that if Obama extends DACA’s deferred action program, or grants “amnesty,” as Republicans have dubbed the extension, Republicans will take action on par with 2013’s government shutdown or the lawsuit considered earlier this year. According to analysts, that type of full scale confrontation is unlikely because it could revamp anti-Republican sentiments among Americans and cost the more central Republicans the 2016 election. Furthermore, Priebus’ comments are likely empty promises from a deeply divided party that sought to encourage the conservative base to vote on November 4th.
Opposition to executive action cannot completely deter an extension of DACA; however, cooperation on comprehensive reform will only happen if Republicans are able to avoid infighting and promote bipartisanship within their own party. Ultimately, immigration advocates should not lose hope, for a path to legalization and a fair, transparent, reformed immigration system is still possible under a Republican Congress.