Reformers and Realists vs. Racists and Reactionaries: The Republican Civil War Over Immigration Continues
by Roger Algase

Just over a half century ago, I was taught in law school that a criminal trial is over when the jury announces a verdict, is discharged and goes home. However, this relic from the distant legal past now seems quaint and out of date, judging by the non-stop television coverage in the days following the jury's verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin.

As I mentioned in my July 17 blogging, the focus on the Zimmerman trial is helpful in one sense because it dramatically illustrates how central race is in America. But the endless media obsession with the afterlife of this trial is also a profound disservice to the public, because it distracts viewers from other critically important events.

None of these events is more important than the bitter civil war now taking place within the Republican Party over CIR. Turning the nation's focus away from immigration reform may turn out to be a devastating blow to the chances for passage of CIR.

I will let POLITICO speak on this point (Immigration could hinge on August recess, July 18):

"The White House and its immigration reform allies are banking on the August recess as their - next - and possibly last - major opportunity to compel House Republicans to act.

With the issue stalled in the House, the monthlong Congressional break is the linchpin of a campaign that President Obama, Senate immigration leaders and a broad coalition of groups expect they'll have to wage through the end of the year. They realize that they must make progress in the next month in order to stand any chance of keeping the issue alive into the fall.

'We're not winning this fight,' Sen. John McCain, a Gang of Eight leader, told POLITICO Wednesday. 'They are mounting a better campaign than we are - the opposition is.' "

Meanshile, POLITICO also reports that another prominent Republican Senate GOE leader and CIR supporter, Marco Rubio, is feeling the heat from right wing immigration opponents who are out to punish him and wreck his presidential chances. (Marco Rubio Stumbles, July 17):

"Rubio appears to have miscalculated how much Republican support he could win in the Senate - and how much conservative backlash he could avoid outside of it. And now he feels stuck. Conservative intellectual leaders - notably Rich Lowry of National Review (and also a POLITICO columnist) and Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard - are crusading against his bill, backed by the vast majority of conservatives in the House."

Let's take a closer look at the arguments against CIR by these two "Conservative intellectual leaders".

In their joint editorial: Kill the Bill (July 9), William Kristol and Rich Lowry make the following main arguments against the Senate CIR bill (S.744):

1) The bill (in their view) doesn't solve the illegal immigration problem, because the enforcement provisions are full of loopholes and President Obama will disregard them anyway,

2) The bill (as they see it) will let in too many low-skilled immigrants (along with the high-skilled ones whom Kristol and Lowry profess to support),

3) The bill is too big and was passed too quickly, (according to these two writers).

4) There is no urgent need to act on immigration (in their opinion) and, finally, as they contend:

5) Sure, it would be nice if the Republicans can win more Hispanic voters, but they should really concentrate on trying to attract more working-class (i.e. white) and younger voters instead. Besides, the Republicans will always be able to hold on to Arkansas, North Carolina, Iowa, Virginia [?] and Montana, even if they kill immigration reform.

With the possible exception of the issue of how many low-skilled workers to let in, which can easily be decided in a Senate-House conference that these two columnists are so anxious to avoid, the above may be good slogans for people who cannot stand the idea of more brown people being allowed to stay in or come to America. But calling these slogans serious intellectual arguments would be quite a stretch.

A real Republican intellectual, Kathleen Parker, demolishes Kristol and Lowry in her July 13 article The GOP's principled suicide:

"At this stage in the second term of the president they couldn't defeat, Republicans seem more like stubborn children refusing to come out of their rooms for supper, even though the alternative is going to bed hungry."

She continues:

Likewise, Republicans are not shooting straight when they insist that the Senate bill's path to citizenship is de facto amnesty. As paths go, it's a 13-year pilgrimage along a precipice lined with bramble bushes - taxes, fines and various fire-burning hoops through which one must leap in order to stand in line. Hardly rose petal strewn.

To the real point, many Republicans fear that allowing 11 million immigrants to become citizens essentially means 11 million more Democrats. This outcome wasn't pre-ordained, but given the tenor of recent debate, their fears are probably justified. Republican intransigence is further compounded by the echo chamber of the Tinker Bell coalition - The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol and National Review's Rich Lowry, who recently co-authored an editorial urging Republicans to drive a stake through the heart of immigration reform. These are the same two who also thought Sarah Palin would be the perfect running mate for John McCain."

Parker concludes:

What Republicans are selling appeals to an ever-diminishing market that doesn't even include their erstwhile allies in the business community. And their self-immolation may prove to have been nothing more than a bonfire of vanities." gop's-principled-suicide.html

Reason vs. reaction - reform vs. racism - this is the battle for the soul of the Republican party on which the fate of immigration reform now hangs.