In their attempts to put a positive spin on what looks increasingly like a grim outlook for the chances of passage of immigration reform in the House, some commentators are grasping at any straws they can.

One of the favorite straws is to point to the fact that even though the House has rejected the Senate's comprehensive approach to reform, a number of House Republican leaders are working on "piecemeal" bills which would at least offer partial solutions.

The hope is that if all the House piecemeal bills are put together, they may eventually add up to something resembling the comprehensive solution which the Senate has passed in S.744.

Of course, anything is possible, and maybe putting a few small lumps of coal together could somehow transform them into a large diamond. But the problem with this kind of wishful thinking is that it takes the words "comprehensive" and "piecemeal" at face value, overlooking the fact that they are both code words for opposite substantive, not merely procedural, approaches to the issue of legalizing 11 million unauthorized immigrants.

Simply put, "comprehensive" means legalization leading eventually to full legal status and citizenship, and "piecemeal" means either no legalization at all, i.e. continuing the current record- high rate of incarceration and deportation; or, at best, putting 11 million people (except, perhaps for a small number of fortunate Dreamers) into a permanent legal second class limbo without any chance of residence or citizenship rights in the future.

An illustration of the problem with taking a "piecemeal" strategy for reform at face value is an August 5 article by Tim Alberta in the National Journal entitled: Who's leading immigration reform in the House?

This article argues that the main obstacle to reform in the House is that it is decentralized, with multiple Republican members pushing different ideas, and that there is no strong leadership to hold them together. In this view, the only problem is that there are too many cooks in the kitchen.

Tim Alberta writes that multiple cooks may even be a good thing for the chances of reform:

"In this case, pro-reform Republicans are embracing the decidedly fragmented approach, and for the same reason that opponents of immigration reform are fearful of it: The more members involved in different aspects of the policymaking process, the likelier the House is to produce legislation that has been exhaustively vetted and enjoys majority support within the conference."

If only.

But let's take a closer look at what is actually in the soup that these multiple House Republican cooks are said to be in the process of preparing. We will find that there is no shortage of ingredients that are doing more to sabotage immigration reform than to support it.

First, the above NJ article mentions Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. But whom does his bill cover? Agricultural guest workers only, according to the article.

All well and good. But there is nothing here about legalization for 11 million people.

Next comes Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Chairman of the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee. But, according to Tim Alberta, Gowdy is a strict "border security" first proponent. No legalization will be considered until the border is secured. In what century will Republican immigration opponents be convinced that this has been achieved?

The NJ article also points out that Gowdy also wrote the Safe Act, which would give states to enforce federal immigration reform. Legalization - No! Sheriff Joe Arpaio - Si!

The next is Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) - Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee - another border security first advocate who would also make legalization dependent on enforcement "triggers". Again, when would those triggers be met, if ever?

The NJ article says that McCaul's approach has "widespread support within the House GOP." What a surprise.

Then there is Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). He is reportedly writing a bill called the "Kids Act" that would offer a pathway to citizenship - but only for young unauthorized immigrants. The article doesn't mention what the age cut-off would be, so I can only guess: six, maybe?

And how much good would legalization do these Kids if their parents are still being locked up and deported, as is the case with the parents of so many American-born children now?

Next, the article mentions Rep.
Paul Ryan (R-WI). The NJ article identifies him as an advocate of comprehensive reform, including eventual legalization for all unauthorized immigrants. By House GOP standards, this is progressive to be sure.

But just last Sunday, as I mentioned in my August 5 post, Ryan told CBS that he wants to make even work permits for "legalized" immigrants contingent on border security goals being met first, as well as making the people involved jump through many other hoops first - including paying back taxes and fines.

How are people who are not allowed to work going to pay back taxes and fines (not to mention unsubsidized medical insurance premiums, since even the Senate bill excludes them from ACA -"Obamacare" - benefits)?

As I mentioned previously, legalization without work permission is not legalization at all. It is nothing more than "self-deportation" by another name.

Last, the NJ article mentions Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho). But he is another border first supporter, who opposes citizenship for unauthorized immigrants at any time in the future and is only willing to consider legal status instead. Better than deportation, to be sure, but this would create a permanent, mainly Latino, underclass. Is this really America?

Labrador also quit the now largely impotent, if not totally defunct, bipartisan House "Gang of Seven", reportedly because of his opposition to government-subsidized health care benefits for legalized immigrants. (See National Journal, June 5: Raul Labrad​or quits House immigration group, bipartisan effort in jeopardy.)

These are the Republican House cooks who are concocting the piecemeal immigration reform soup. Understandably, 11 million aspiring immigrants who are currently without legal status may be reluctant to taste it because of all the poison pills inside.

With House Republican "friends" like these, immigration reform supporters don't need any enemies.