House Attack on Dreamers Equals Republican Nightmare

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By Robert Gittelson, CP Guest Contributor
June 18, 2013|12:54 pm

In 2011 through 2012, my colleagues and I were personally working very closely with several Republican Senators, including Kay Bailey Hutchison, John Kyl, and Marco Rubio, to try to find a conservative legislative alternative to the Dream Act. We came extremely close to seeing it happen, but then President Obama decided to introduce his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. In truth, we were conflicted about DACA, because while we of course saw the potential benefit to the innocent young men and women – who's only "crime" was to be brought here by their parents, albeit illegally, as children – we were troubled that this action by the President was only administrative, and was in many ways an end-run around Congress. It also did not escape our notice that the parameters of this program were strikingly similar to the legislation that Republicans were about to put forward.

However, at the end of the day, the program did the right thing by these children. It protected them from deportation, and allowed them to legally work and to get on with their lives. As these hundreds of thousands of young people were, in our opinion, morally and ethically innocent, the DACA program accomplished a net positive outcome, even if the means to accomplish this end were questionable.

Many conservatives, ourselves included, were and continue to this day to be troubled by the Administration's over-reach on this issue. We believe in our Constitution, and in the "checks and balances" that our Nation's Founders built into our system of government. The Congress is supposed to make the laws, and the Administration is charged with upholding these laws. The fact that the President took it upon himself to change immigration law independent of Congress's will was and continues to be troubling.

That being said, the bottom line is that these young "Dreamers" are innocent pawns, caught up in a political fight. They should not be punished. Therefore, we were deeply troubled that earlier this month, the House of Representatives allowed themselves to be drawn into a political black hole when they followed the lead of Representative Steve King of Iowa, (a longtime opponent of sensible immigration reform), and passed his very ill-advised amendment to de-fund DACA, as part of the 2014 Department of Homeland Security spending bill.

We have been working so very hard to slowly bring the Republican Party along in our effort to re-brand Republicans as being sensitive and open to issues that are important to the Hispanic, as well as to the greater immigrant community. We are making great headway in this effort, which makes this latest political misstep all the more, for lack of a better word, "tone-deaf." Republicans are about to be given an opportunity to not only "do the right thing" by passing a fair, sensible, and conservative immigration reform, but they are poised to allow the immigrant community to enter their party through the front door, because they are about to open that door to anyone that believes in their message of upward mobility and smaller, more accountable government.

Therefore, we urge our conservative brothers and sisters in Congress to re-think their involvement in this very wrong-headed and wrong-hearted amendment to de-fund DACA. The answer is not to punish these innocent kids. The answer is to fix the legal immigration system once and for all, and to pass a legislative remedy that will supersede the temporary DACA, not kill it. At the end of the day, we were personally very disappointed by what we consider to be a political and policy mistake by our Republican friends. Congressional oversight of immigration law is an important and good policy that must be legislated. However, the Republicans have just stepped all over their positive message toward the Hispanic Community, and they must fix this problem, and fix it now. They have just slapped the immigrant community in the face. They owe it to the immigrant community to make this right – and to quote my friend and colleague Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the NHCLC, "the Republican Party must cross the proverbial Jordan River of immigration reform," in order to make it right. We urge our conservative friends to assume the mantle of leadership on this issue, and to proactively lead Congress toward enacting a just and effective immigration reform.

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Robert Gittelson is president of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and vice president for Governmental Affairs for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
 

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