So, the understandable kerfuffle over the immigration bill in the Senate is coming to a head after the vote produced a 68-32 Senate majority for the bill.  The Republican Senators that vote for it are already catching major flak for supporting the bill, none more than (former) Tea Party darling Marco Rubio.  Just looking at the petition site calling for his recall, a one “Michael Jackson” from Illinois can be quoted in the following deep thought:

Rubio is lying. He is not a natural born citizen. Being born on U.S. soil does not make a person natural born. His parents did not become U.S. naturalized citizens until Marco was nearly 4 yrs old. He is native born at best and because of that cannot be VP or POTUS. Rubio has sold America a bill of goods just like Barry Obama. Wake up America, Rubio is lying about S744 and amnesty, just like he is about Barry not being a U.S. natural born citizen and likely not even a U.S. citizen. What a bunch of politicians lining their pockets with filthy lucre, but denying the real American citizens the truth and helping destroy our liberties.

Nevertheless, the reform will pass the Senate and head to the House where it is essentially dead on arrival.  Boehner already walks a fine line with the raucous Republican caucus in the House, and he won’t overstep his authority by forcing this bill (or some modified version thereof) down the chamber’s throats with Democrat support and a few scattered Republican votes as happened in the Senate.  Unfortunately, we’re likely to see a piecemeal approach that focuses on “border security” first and then, oh yeah, deals with whole “amnesty” issue by forcing everyone back to Mexico.  When the time comes, I for one will be casting some serious blame on House Republicans for failing once again to find some balls and make some tough decisions on a very tough issue.  Our caucus will suffer as a result, and we are only creating more problems for ourselves by not coming up with a comprehensive solution to the problem while the iron is hot.

BoehnerPartisan politics is dominating this conversation, and it needs to stop.  I know why the Democrats want this issue at the forefront.  They’re horrible on the economy, and people know it.  The more they bring other issues to front, the more they are insulated from a real discussion about their ridiculously poor understanding of job creation. That said, it doesn’t remove the importance of finding legislation that addresses this issue.  Furthermore, the more Republicans pony up and provide a good solution now, the more time they have to drive the conversation back to budgets, deficit spending, and taxes that the Democrats are sure to lose on.

Which makes it so frustrating that Boehner is taking the politically safe stance.  This concept of “border security” is the ultimately manifestation of that.  For all the talk of needing more, no Republican has provided any substantive discussion of what that means.  After doubling the number of border agents, building a fence along the southern border, implementing important biometric technologies and others, and even requiring businesses to use e-Verify as a process of screening employees, Senate and House Republicans are still upset.  Why?

I’m okay with the stance that the border security measures aren’t enough, but that criticism obligates Republicans in opposition to provide a reasonable and viable alternative.  Senators like Ted Cruz, amazing in their rhetorical flourish as they are, seem unwilling to demonstrate the intellectual strength needed to add substance to style.  That’s sorely lacking right now, and it’s making our party to suffer as a result.  Those Republicans not supportive of the bill have little leverage in finding modifications on the final version.  More importantly, we lack any reasonable claim to make modifications in the House that are aimed at genuine solutions as opposed to partisan posturing.

Furthermore, we’re only going to hurt ourselves if we continue to harp on “amnesty.”  There’s still no viable alternative provided by the Republicans here.  Stonewalling reforms isn’t going to stop the de facto status many of these individuals receive now.  After all, education and health care is already provided regardless of immigration status.  Also, the Obama Administration is already providing DREAM Act relief to young immigrants who have a very reasonable and viable claim to being more American than they are anything else – all without Congressional approval.  If our response is to simply say “NOPE!  No more!” then we are setting ourselves up for failure.  Again, viable alternatives are warranted.

I’m firmly okay with denying citizenship to any individual who came to this country illegally, especially if they were of age to know they were breaking the law at the time.  But, they’re not going back unless we spend billions rounding them up in a fashion I’d personally feel terrified about (government men and guns is not something I want roaming around the country on a crusade).  Sending them “home” is unrealistic in the fashion so many conservatives wants, so we need to come up with a solution that allows them to earn a spot in this country and take responsibility for breaking the law.  That’s not called amnesty; that’s called a solution.  Stringent requirements?  Yes.  Citizenship?  No.  I think that’s a fair solution that fleshed out people can buy into.

There are real world impacts to this, too.  Love him or not, Karl Rove knows numbers (I’ve heard people say in 2004 he could cite complex registration and turnout statistics for every zip code in the country) and how they impact election prospects.  Citing examples from Georgia should paint a very real picture of the fact that Republicans cannot rely on a Southern strategy anymore.  Just in terms of elections, Republicans are setting themselves up to lose and belie this image of “inclusiveness” we’re trying to portray.  Regardless of whether or not someone is a native English speaker, speaking out of both sides of your mouth is readily apparent.  In fact, many immigrants – legal and illegal – came to this country precisely because their own politicians did that for too long.  They want to find a home where they don’t suffer because of political ineptitude and mismanagement.

Secondly, and more importantly, we distract ourselves the more Republicans drag this discussion of immigration reform along through a piecemeal approach.  I’d like to think that most people, especially those in government, can work on multiple problems at once.  However, Congress will not make the budget and deficit a real priority in until other pressing problems are solved.  For all the talk of the sequester, we’ve moved onto something else the Democrats can use as a distraction and taken the platform away from real reform.  Those that claim too much immigration suppresses wages and economic opportunity are remiss to acknowledge that poor monetary controls, runaway budgeting, and heavy regulation has a much larger negative impact on job creation.

The Know Nothing Party provided a sizeable minority in American politics in the mid-1800s.  Opposed to immigrants and Catholics (hello Irish!) who took jobs away from “real” Americans, they provide a good historical example of what Republicans face today.  Many of those immigrants provided a very important cultural foundation for our society, and their contributions can certainly be seen if you’ve ever been in Chicago or Savannah during St. Patrick’s Day.  It goes deeper than that, though.  Many of those families went on to sponsor successful small businesses and a pioneering spirit that helped build this country into the mighty powerhouse it is today.  Republicans would do well to remember those days and how it contributed to our own creation as a party.  Know Nothings became irrelevant in politics because our Republican Party formed and provided deeper solutions to the pressing problems of slavery.  We need remind ourselves of that and provide some tangible solutions to the issue of immigration.