On the same day, September 24, two commentators from different sides of the immigration reform issue each published an article suggesting a possible a scenario according to which an 11th hour proposal by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) combined with yet another round of caving on principle and throwing more people under the bus by CIR supporters would finally produce legalization, if not citizenship, for 11 million unauthorized immigrants.

If this sounds improbable, it may be because it is improbable, for the reasons I will explain below. First, I will outline the proposal which both writers see as a possibility

As described by Andrew Stiles, writing for the National Review, which opposes CIR, (see Goodlatte Boosts the Gang of Eight?) and the Washington Post's Greg Sargent, who supports it, (see Immigration reform is on life support, but it isn't dead yet) the idea is essentially this:

Goodlatte, whose committee has already reported out four immigration related bills (two of which relate only to enforcement and none of which deal with legalization) and is reported to have four more in the works of unknown content, would introduce a bill providing for legal status for 11 million unauthorized immigrants and allowing them to apply for eventual citizenship through "existing channels".

Supporters of the Senate-passed CIR bill, in turn, would give up their demand for a "special pathway" to citizenship for the immigrants who would be legalized according to Goodlatte's hypothetical proposal and, lo! we would have legal status and relief from deportation for 11 million people.

Stiles writes:

"If the House passed legislation that included some kind of pathway to citizenship, it would alter the political landscape. Public pressure and media scrutiny would refocus on the push for a comprehensive bill, and we'd see breathless headlines about immigration reform's return from the dead."

Sargent, from the other side of the immigration reform fence, writes:

"Can Democrats and reformers accept the Goodlatte architecture [i.e. legalization without a special pathway to citizenship] given that it doesn't provide a special path to citizenship for the 11 million?"

He answers this by saying that the answer could be yes, if existing laws are changed to make green cards, which are the basis for citizenship, easier to obtain though regular procedures.

This would remove the main objection of reformers to citizenship through "regular channels" only - namely that it would throw too many newly legalized immigrants under the citizenship bus, because under current law, most of them would not be eligible for green cards through marriage to a US citizen or permanent resident, or through employer sponsorship.

This is a nice idea, but aside from the fact that persuading GOP leaders in either the House or Senate to expand the frontiers for legal immigration is likely to be even more of a stretch then gaining their support for relief from deportation for millions of immigrants who are here without legal status, this line of thought misses the real issue.

It assumes that the real battle in immigration reform is over citizenship. This is just as fatuous and unrealistic as assuming that the real obstacle to reform is lack of border security, which was the big issue in the Senate.

But as we have since seen, border security is not what anti-immigrant Republicans really care about; otherwise the House would have passed some version of BS-heavy S. 744 a long time ago. Nor is citizenship, or barriers to it, what most of the House Republicans really care about most.

These two issues are more likely just being used as smoke-screens, or poison pills, in the hope that CIR supporters will object to the GOP proposals and kill reform entirely, so that the Republicans and blame the Democrats for its demise.

There must have been a good deal of consternation among anti-immigrant Senate Republicans, such as John Cornyn (R-TX), when the Democrats on the Senate Gang of Eight actually agreed to throw away $46 billion dollars on lining the pockets of military contractors for increased "border security".

In the same way, if CIR supporters finally agree to cave in on the special pathway to citizenship for 11 million people in exchange for a Goodlatte-supported legalization deal, they would in effect be calling his bluff, rather than actually cementing a reform bill.

The reform goalposts would almost certainly be moved once again.

I have not seen any indication in the news to date that Goodlatte is even considering legalization for anyone beyond the DREAMers, and maybe not even all of them. He and other House GOP leaders have also been quoted as saying that internal enforcement and border security must come before any reform, as I have mentioned in a recent post. This in effect means no reform at all, since there will never be enough IE or BS to satisfy the anti-immigrant wing of what is becoming an increasingly whites only Republican party.

As I have also pointed out in a previous post, one of the bills that has already been reported out of Goodlatte's committee would in effect overturn last year's Supreme Court Arizona v. US decision and put immigration enforcement back in the hands of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and other bigoted GOP state and local officials.

The House Republican leadership, and the great majority of House rank and file, appear fixated on only one goal - to continue deporting as many brown people as possible. This does not necessarily mean that all of these House GOP members are personally opposed to reform or even anti-immigrant, but, as I have also mentioned earlier, there is a more powerful dynamic at work - fear of being "primaried" by fanatic anti-immigrant groups and candidates on the far right. There is, unfortunately, no shortage of these in today's Republican party.

Stiles concludes his article as follows:

"UPDATE: A House Judiciary Committee aide rejected the notion that Goodlatte was aiding the Gang of Eight's efforts, and reiterated his opposition to the Senate bill."

No matter how much Democrats and other CIR supporters may be willing to compromise on citizenship or anything else, I would not suggest holding one's breath waiting for the GOP to agree to the heart of reform, i.e. legalization for 11 million people, any time soon.