After losing the Hispanic vote in the 2012 elections by a wide margin, Republicans have been under pressure to change their stance on immigration reform. Last Wednesday, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that the House of Representatives would not be pursuing any legislation dealing with immigration reform in 2014. This came only one week after a GOP retreat where Speaker Boehner outlined his “principles” for any possible immigration reform legislation efforts. Not surprisingly, his recent announcement was lambasted with acclaim and scorn from both sides of the aisle. Advocates for reform, mostly Democrats, vehemently attacked Boehner as a hypocrite caving to the far right. Proponents against reform, mostly Republicans, praised Boehner for being smart in an election year and not caving to Democrats. There is no doubt that some kind of reform of the current immigration system is needed eventually, but Speaker Boehner made the correct decision to postpone any initiative for three reasons: 1) 2014 is an election year, 2) the legislation in 2015 has the possibility to be much better than the legislation this year, and 3) President Obama cannot be trusted with the execution of the law.
In about nine months, Americans will be going to polls to vote on all of the House of Representatives’ seats and one-third of the Senate seats. Typically, an opposition party does very well in the second midterm election of a two-term president; most recently, look at 2006 for the Democrats. Presently, Republicans are almost guaranteed to hold onto the House of Representatives and have a very good chance at taking control of the Senate thanks to President Obama’s poll numbers and Obamacare. Why would Republicans ever want to change the main political focus in the country or give President Obama a legislative achievement?
Since it was passed, Obamacare has never had the majority of support of the American people; after the entire healthcare website debacle last October, it has become more unpopular than ever. Obamacare is the issue that Republicans can ride into the elections in November. For no reason should the GOP shift focus away from the Affordable Care Act to immigration reform — not to mention that the GOP has not settled on an approach to the fourteen million illegal immigrants in the country. Having the party divided on this issue could only damage election chances.
Obamacare is an albatross and Senate Democrats should be forced to wear it.
Also, President Obama’s poll numbers have been down over the past few months after his “if you like your plan, you can keep it” promise proved to be false. Maneuvered correctly by the opposition party, midterm elections are supposed to be referendums on the president: low poll numbers for President Obama bode well for Republicans. Immigration reform has the potential to turn around the president’s bad poll numbers, thereby damaging Republicans in November. Giving President Obama any legislative achievements is incredibly bad politics in an election year.
Should Republicans avoid the landmine that is immigration reform this year and end up doing well in the elections and winning a majority of seats in the Senate, then the immigration reform bill next year will be much more appealing to conservatives than it is currently. Republicans can focus on securing the border as the premier issue of the reform instead of the citizenship issue for the millions of illegal immigrants. No matter what other provisions are in the immigration bill, as long as the bill includes a provision that legalizes all illegal immigrants, President Obama is almost sure to sign it or risk infuriating the Hispanic community.
Finally, demonstrated by his actions dealing with current immigration law and Obamacare, President Obama has proven that he cannot be trusted to enforce any laws that Congress passes. Considering he has unilaterally changed Obamacare provisions and has given millions of illegal immigrants legal status without the support of Congress, President Obama has demonstrated himself to be unreliable should any enforcement-first bill should be put into law. He is wielding his power in a way that allows him to ignore or change any provision of the law that he does not like, so it is highly unlikely that he would secure the border before granting illegal immigrants amnesty.
Republicans need to stay focused on taking back the Senate in the elections by using Obamacare against the Democrats. Taking back the Senate will give the GOP momentum moving into the 2016 elections and allow the party to shed its caricature of being the “party of no.” Immigration reform is not an issue like an economic meltdown that must be acted on as quickly as possible. It is much smarter for Republicans to wait until they are on stronger ground to tackle such an important demographic issue.
—Connor Kitchings is a freshman studying political science and economics
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