Should Democrats and other CIR supporters cave in on the "Special Pathway to Citizenship" for 11 million unauthorized immigrants, in order to get a deal with House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte legalizing them? This question, assumes of course, that Goodlatte is in fact willing to offer such a deal to CIR supporters.

In my September 25 post, I stated that there is little evidence that Goodlatte is actually willing to offer such a deal to anyone beyond the DREAMER's, and maybe not even all of them. But if he did offer legalization without citizenship (except through the current restrictive "regular channels") to 11 million people, it might be the shrewdest move yet that the House Republicans could come up with in the immigration reform battle.

It would have two big political advantages for the Republican side. First, it would split the Democrats and other CIR supporters. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Splitting the other side, or at least peeling away key members of the other side is the key to winning on this issue.

Without the four key Republicans in the Senate Gang of Eight who were willing to work with the Democrats on CIR, and the support of ten other GOP senators in the final vote, S. 744 would never have passed.

Conversely, the reason that immigration reform is on life support in the House is because CIR advocates have not been able to persuade enough Republicans to go over to their side.

But up to now, Democrats and other CIR supporters have held together, with few divisions in their ranks. This has put the Republicans on the defensive, and may well be the only reason that they have to keep talking about, or going through the motions of, reform at all.

But suppose the Republicans can turn the tables by dividing the Democrats? Up to now, the twin pillars of reform have been achieving both legalization and eventual citizenship for all unauthorized immigrants (with certain conditions attached).

But suppose the House GOP is willing to offer only half a loaf, legalization without citizenship for all? Morally, this would be totally unacceptable.

Harold Meyerson states the case very well in his September 26 Washington Post article: The GOP's citizenship suppression.

He writes:

"Not granting citizenship to the undocumented would limit the number of Latinos and Asians in the electorate, two groups which increasingly back Democrats at the polls. Could there be a more effective form of voter suppression than citizenship suppression?"

He also quotes Tom Snyder of the AFL-CIO:

"We don't cotton to having a permanent second-class group just here to work...At least since we abolished slavery, it's not been the American way."

This last quote also shows that beyond dividing immigration supporters over the citizenship issue, offering legalization without a "special" pathway to citizenship might have huge political advantages for the GOP.

If the Democrats accept such a deal, this would infuriate many reform supporters, for the reasons Meyerson describes. The Democrats might then lose their advantage with Latino and Asian voters, who would, with some justification, accuse them of selling out on this key issue.

On the other hand, if the Democrats stick to principle and refuse to compromise on citizenship, the Republicans will be able to say to millions of Latino and other minority voters whose immediate family members, relatives, and friends are still being caught in the deportation meat grinder: "Look, you could have had legalization, but the Democrats refused to go along. If they had been willing to make a deal with us over citizenship. the people whom you care about most would not be in immigration detention right now, on the way to being kicked out of the country".

Would Goodlatte and his fellow House GOP leaders be smart enough (from their perspective) to offer the Democrats such a half-loaf only deal? My guess is that they will not. They are too much in thrall to their party's far right lunatic fringe, which is still insisting on deporting every last Latino, Asian and black unauthorized man, woman and child in America.

Just as the fanatics within the GOP are trying to shut down the government and destroy the credit of the United States in a Quixotic attempt to deny health care to some 30 million minority and other less well off Americans, they are still determined, as they have been for more than two decades, to kill "amnesty" at all costs.

This is why CIR supporters may never have to worry about the pros and cons of making a deal with Bob Goodlatte about citizenship.

September 28 update:

But just suppose that GOP House Leaders such as Bob Goodlatte, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) were able to muster up the courage to stand up to their party's fanatic right wing, which is in total denial of the realities on planet Earth (and I am referring not only to evolution and global warming), including America's transformation from a culturally and ethnically Euro-centric society into a truly multi-cultural, multi-racial one.

I hope that anyone who had read this far will bear with me if I quote from another Latin poet, Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso, 43 BC - AD 17). Latin may itself seem Euro-centric and long out of date, but this would be wrong. It is in fact the second largest spoken language in the US, in the form of a modern version of Latin known as Spanish, which is used by around 40 million people in America who are called Latinos for good reason.

2,000 years ago, Ovid wrote:

In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora...

("I will describe transformations into new bodies").

Ovid might well have been writing about America's demographically changing body politic today. So suppose, in recognition of these modern day "Metamorphoses" (the title of Ovid's long epic poem), House Republicans were in fact willing to pass a bill providing legalization for 11 million people without a special pathway to citizenship. Should immigration supporters cave in once again, as they have done on so many issues in the Senate bill, and accept it?

At the risk of heresy, I will offer an argument in favor of doing exactly that. This argument would run as follows:

First, the most urgent goal of immigration reform is legalization. Without relief from deportation, the advantages of becoming a US citizen more than a decade in the future would be purely theoretical, to say the least. It would be like worrying whether there will be climate change on Jupiter.

Closing the door to legalization for 11 million people merely because, 13 years later or whenever, many of them might not yet have a way to apply for citizenship, is like cutting off the nose of immigration reform to spite its face. To put it another way, if you see someone drowning in the river, you don't wait to think about whether the person will be able to get a good education, job, home or car, or have a nice family, if you rescue him (or her) but you jump in and try to same the person immediately.

11 million unauthorized immigrants are in danger of drowning in a sea of deportation today, and more than a million have already been thrown into the water since President Obama took office. Let's rescue them first and worry about citizenship later, if there is no other choice.

Second, holding legalization hostage to a special pathway to citizenship assumes that unless a special pathway is included in a reform law now, there will never be another chance to enact one. This short-sighted view implies that American society and politics are static, and will not change further in the very near future.

But it is obvious to everyone that America is changing very rapidly. Five or ten years from now, whites will be in a minority in this country. The Republicans have already done themselves so much irreparable damage over immigration in the past two decades, that they may soon be a permanent minority, at least at the national level, if they continue to exist as a party at all.

A decade from now, if not well before, it should not be too difficult for a Democratic Congress and Democratic president to enact a "technical corrections" measure granting immediate citizenship. or at least a special pathway, to everyone who was legalized in the (hoped for) historic CIR law of 2013.

If Bob Goodlatte is willing to offer legalization, plus citizenship through existing channels, for 11 people now, why not go for it and let the future take care of itself?

Of course, if the House Judiciary Chairman really has a good heart, not just good cappuccino, he could throw in a sweetener in his bill, along with the latte. This could consist of reducing the age at which adult USC children (technically: "sons or daughters") could sponsor their parents for green cards as immediate relatives from the current 21 years to, say, 18 - the voting age - or even 16.

This would open up the "regular channels" to eventual citizenship a bit wider and make the waiting period for at least some legalized immigrants (as well as many other people seeking green cards) a little shorter. Just a thought.