Those of us who were hoping for a rational approach to immigration reform on the part of the House Republican leadership are still being treated to the same old enforcement only mantra instead.

Laura Matthews reports in the September 12 International Business Times on a memo from the office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) containing a vague statement to the effect that this fall, the House "may begin considering" the five immigration bills which have been passed in various committees so far.

This is assuming that CIR supporters would even want the House to consider these bills at all, since they mostly deal with enforcement, rather than real reform. As if anyone missed the point, the IBT quotes Cantor's offices memo as follows:

"Before we consider any other reforms, it is important that we pass legislation securing our borders and providing enforcement mechanisms to our law enforcement officials."

See: 2013 Immigration Reform Makes Cantor's Legislative Agenda, But Uncertainty Remains Over Undocumented.

In the same vein, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is quoted as saying:

"Finding appropriate legal status for a great many of them [11 million unauthorized immigrants] needs to be a priority."

So far, so good. But then he continues:

"...but we must have enforcement as a prerequisite."

In other words, enforcement - i.e. mass expulsion of 11 million minority immigrants and closing the Mexican border - must come before reform, exactly as the Republicans have been saying for the last two decades.

An optimistic interpretation of this might be that Cantor and Goodlatte really want to do something about reform, including at least legal status, if not the Pathway to Citizenship, for 11 million unauthorized immigrants, but need to keep shouting "Enforcement! Enforcement!" to protect themselves from their rabidly anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, Tea Party base.

See Huffington Post: GOP, Tea Party, Face Growing Divide, September 14.

But this might only be a favorable spin. It is just as likely, if not even more so, that enforcement is the only thing the House Republican leaders are really interested in, at least judging from the content of most of the five bills that the House Committees have passed so far, and that the leadership is only giving lip service to reform.

What does "enforcement" mean, anyway? As used in a political context, it is nothing more than a code word for a hard line on immigration, for saying that Latino and other non-white immigrants are not welcome in America.

"Enforcement" has become just a slogan, a rallying cry against minorities, equivalent to other racially charged, derogatory terms such as "amnesty for illegals" and "anchor babies".

Or possibly the Goodlattes and the Cantors in the GOP would like to convince the public that ever more draconian immigration enforcement, Alabama and Arizona style, but nationwide and at the federal level, complete with drastic criminal penalties, is reform. This is a tactic that George Orwell would have no difficulty recognizing.

And what would it take to satisfy the House GOP leaders that enforcement is working? Electrified border fences? Alligators in the moat? The Berlin Wall of Mexico? North Korean style gulags for immigrant detention? All of the above? Or would none of the above be enough?

How many hundreds of thousands, or millions, of families would have to be broken up, how many more American children left without their immigrant parents, how many more people would have to die at the Mexican border from harsh desert conditions, or in immigration jails from inexcusable medical neglect, before Congressman Cantor and Congressman Goodlatte finally decide that enforcement is working well enough so that they can now proceed to reform?

When anti-immigrant Republicans say "enforcement first", they really mean "enforcement only", because, as we have just seen in the debate over border security, the point is not to achieve an actual, workable objective, but to use the issue as an excuse to postpone legalization and citizenship for unauthorized immigrants forever.

It is almost as if today's Republican anti-immigrant right is updating Alabama Governor George Wallace's notorious 1963 speech calling for segregation forever as follows:

"Enforcement only now, enforcement only tomorrow, enforcement only forever."

Anyone who is still waiting for the House Republican leadership to get serious about real immigration reform, including legalization now and citizenship in the reasonably near future, may have to wait for quite a while longer.

In the meantime, immigration reform supporters should stand up against anti-immigrant bigotry with their own resolve to bring accomplish:

"Legalization now, citizenship tomorrow, immigration forever!"