Update: February 6, 3:57 pm:

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has now joined Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in throwing cold water on any hopes for immigration reform this year, according to a February 6 POLITICO article: John Boehner: Immigration reform difficult in 2014 by Jake Sherman and Seung Min Kim.

According to the article, Boehner's excuse for no action is based on a different part for the standard GOP no-reform template from McConnell's.

McConnell, according to a POLITICO article mentioned below, claimed that reform would fail this year because of the divide between the Senate's "comprehensive" approach to CIR and the House's "piecemeal" approach.

However, Boehner's excuse is the by now familiar one that since President Obama allegedly changed the health care law on his own, he will do the same thing with immigration reform and therefore cannot be "trusted to enforce the law".

Anyone following this issue who has been not been in a coma during the last half year will realize instantly that these excuses have no more foundation than blaming Syria or Benghazi would.

The only surprise is that it only took John Boehner about a week to let the cat out of the bag and, in effect, admit that the much heralded Republican reform "Principles" or "Standards" were only a public relations hoax (as anti-reform GOP analyst Sean Trende strongly hinted in a recent article discussed in my post last Saturday).

It is more obvious than ever before that the GOP leadership has no interest in any kind of immigration reform, no matter how much the Democrats may talk about compromise or try to gloss over the Republicans' obstructionist tactics.

It is time to for immigration reform advocates to recognize that the Tea Party extremists have won the immigration debate within the Republican party and to move on to the 2014 election. We will never accomplish reform by kidding ourselves about the GOP's intentions.

The following is my original post:

One of the main reasons why immigration reform failed last year and is going nowhere this year either (if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is facing a Tea Party primary challenge, is right - see POLITICO: Mitch McConnell: Immigration 'irresolvable' in 2014), is that reform opponents know what they are against, while supporters can't seem to agree on what they are for - or even on what the real issues are.

It is no secret what the Tea Party, backed up by familiar anti-immigrant lobby groups such as FAIR and NumbersUSA, is opposed to the most. Above all, they want to stop legalization, which they still call "amnesty", as if nothing had changed since the last reform bill was killed in 2007 and as if the 2012 election had never taken place.

Nor is it any secret, despite all the hype and wishful thinking on the pro-reform side about how the House Republicans are slowly but surely coming around to support legalization, as allegedly shown by a highly selective reading of their latest enforcement manifesto - otherwise known as "Principles" or "Standards" - that the GOP leaders are terrified of opposing the Tea Party and other right wing bigots who are fighting against legalization for 11 million non-white immigrants without legal status.

This is the clear meaning of the enforcement "triggers" poison pill which appears at the beginning and the end of the "Standards", and governs everything in the middle. And, at the risk of repeating myself, House GOP leaders such as Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) have made clear what these triggers would be - putting Sheriff Joe and the racist Alabama state officials back in the immigration enforcement business, for one prong, and taking away the president's broad powers to grant relief from deportation - as detailed in a 41-page petition from the National Day Laborers Organizing Network - for the other.

But while the anti-immigrant side knows what it wants - i.e. no letup in or exemptions from deportations - the pro-reform side is floundering around in a morass of side issues such as the "pathway to citizenship" and, now, according to POLITICO's top immigration reporter Seung Min Kim, guest workers.

In her February 5 article: Immigration reform's other hurdle, Kim writes:

"The Republican divide on whether undocumented immigrants can become citizens is consuming most of the headlines. But there's a tricker issue at play that ultimately could prove to be a bigger stumbling block for immigration reform: a guest-worker program for future immigrants."

I have the highest respect for Seung Min Kim, who is one of the most thorough and capable immigration reporters writing for any media outlet, and has been following the reform debate as carefully and reliably as anyone, without injecting her own personal views or rushing to premature conclusions, as so many pundits are doing on this issue.

But in this case, Kim seems to have succumbed to the conventional wisdom in both the media and the pro-reform community that reform depends on other issues besides legalization. This is not to say that there are not many other critical issues related to immigration reform under discussion in connection with reform.

Just to give one example, it is only necessary to look at the attempt to destroy large parts of the H-1B program in exchange for some additional visas which was included in the Senate-passed CIR bill, S.744, in order to appease Republicans such as Sen. Charles Grassley (IA) who have long been fierce opponents of skilled worker immigration.

But issues like this are not at the heart of reform. Legalization is. Reform which gives no relief from deportation for 11 million people cannot be called reform.

And Kim is not alone in being distracted by side issues, important as they may be in their own right. Even at POLITICO, whose immigration coverage in general is second to none, her colleague, Reid J. Epstein over-inflates the citizenship issue in his February 5 article: White House faces revolt on deportation policy.

(BTW, I will no longer provide links to POLITICO articles. None of the ones I have used seem to work. And who needs links anyway when we have Google? Yes, it does take 5 seconds longer. My apologies for that.)

Yes, Epstein's article has a great headline. I will not argue with that. But the content of the article gives the misleading impression that citizenship is equal in importance to relief from deportation, while correctly pointing out that many pro-reform advocates also suffer from this misunderstanding.

Here's why mixing up the less important citizenship issue with the crucial legalization issue is so dangerous:

Suppose you are an unauthorized immigrant from El Salvador and are locked up in immigration jail, unable to support or provide for your American children who are going hungry at home, and you have been told that you will be deported next week.

However, in this hypothetical example, you also find out that Congress has a bill ready to pass and send to the president's desk that would immediately let you out of detention, let you apply for work permission, and defer or terminate deportation proceedings against you.

But there is just one little catch: In this same hypothetical example, Congress can't agree on whether, 10 or 13 years from now, you would be eligible to apply for a green card and citizenship through a "special" pathway, based on your having been legalized, or whether you would have to apply through "regular" channels, which might or not be available to you now or at some future time.

Your ICE prison guards also tell you, again in this hypothetical example, that the legalization reform bill is being held up because some immigration supporters want to make sure that you will never have to become a "second-class" citizen, and if this doesn't get resolved by next week, back to El Salvador you go.

Which do you care about more? Getting out of jail, getting your work permit and feeding your hungry American children now, or becoming an American citizen 13 years later? Or, it is possible that you might care so much about guest workers, or even high-tech visas, that you wouldn't mind being put on the bus or plane back to your country if those issues aren't sorted out to your satisfaction?

Immigration supporters have to get their act together and do some down to earth prioritizing in the reform battle. That means legalization first and above all. Reform opponents have their priorities well in sight and are determined to kill legalization for 11 million brown people at all costs.

The pro-reform side lacks the same, single-minded focus and is letting itself get distracted by fake, or at least side, issues. No wonder the reform side is losing the battle over immigration.


Roger Algase is a New York Attorney and graduate of Harvard Law School. For more than 30 years, through his close connection with each client and personal attention to every case, he has been helping business and professional immigrants obtain successful results.

His main areas of practice are H-1B and O-1 work visas, and green cards through labor certification, extraordinary ability, and opposite or same same sex marriage. His email address is algaselex@gmail.com