Schumer and Democratic "Frenemies" OK With Piecemeal Immigration Reform If It's Enforcement-Only
Despite the "all or nothing" rhetoric with which Democrats in Congress have shot down proposed piecemeal reforms like the DREAM Act in defense of comprehensive immigration reform, Democrats are perfectly ok with passing piecemeal reforms--as long as they ramp up enforcement and deliver nothing of value to the immigrant community. On Thursday, Senate Democrats introduced a $600
billion million border enforcement bill that will further militarize the border while getting nothing in return for the immigrant community. America's Voice chided Democrats for continuing "to play a losing game of catch-up to politicians like Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio."
Republicans like John McCain are thrilled that Democrats are doing their work for them to punish immigrants until they leave on their own, a policy known as "enforcement through attrition":
"Although, there is a great deal more to be done, I believe today Democrats finally put good policy over politics and agreed we must secure our border first," McCain said in a statement.
With strong Republican support, the bill was quickly approved by the Senate. Democrats for a long time now have been good at pretending to be allies of the immigrant community to court the Latin@ vote, but bad at actually delivering any legislation that does more than further penalize the immigrant community.
The Mexican newspaper El Universal reported that Senator Schumer rejected attempts to attach the DREAM Act and AgJobs to the border enforcement bill. (Hat tip Jose Franco of the DREAM Act 21.) Deepak Barghava of the Center for Community Change speculated in a Politico article that introduction of the bill had been a failed attempt by Democrats at a bluff, but that Republicans "ate the Democrats' lunch," and voted for the bill even though Schumer had only introduced it a few hours before the vote. Politico reported that unnamed immigrant rights advocates said that passing a stand-alone border bill eliminated a bargaining chip for Democrats to pass comprehensive immigration reform. If so, this was a major tactical error by Schumer and shows how thoroughly outclassed he is by GOP Senators when it comes to immigration policy.
This is the latest in a string of piecemeal enforcement backed by Democrats without any expectation of any pro-migrant reform in return. Immigration Impact reported recently that the Democrats have now enacted the majority of the enforcement pieces of the failed 2007 comprehensive reform bill, while getting nothing in return for the immigrant community. Democrats have been the biggest facilitators of the current enforcement-only immigration policy regime, caving time after time to nativists in the GOP even though Democrats hold large majorities in both houses of Congress. These are not allies, they are "frenemies," friends to your face who stab you in the back as soon as you turn around.
If CCC and other national immigrant advocacy organizations are unhappy with Democrats right now, they have only themselves to blame for repeatedly enabling Democratic frenemies, from giving Deporter-in-Chief Obama an uncontested platform to deceive the immigrant community at the March 21 immigrant rights rally in Washington, D.C., to buying into Rahm Emanuel's poll-tested "tough on immigrants" talking points that reinforce conservative frames on immigration. Aside from recent movement from America's Voice to support standalone DREAM Act and challenge the Democrats, to me it's still an open question: Will D.C.-based immigrant rights organizations ever hold Democrats accountable for selling out the immigrant community?
And the next big question with this latest installment of enforcement-only legislation coming from Democrats in the Senate: Will the Congressional Hispanic Caucus follow the Senate's lead and support piecemeal enforcement-only reform while continuing to hold pro-migrant piecemeal legislation like the DREAM Act hostage to a nonexistent CIR bill?
So who are these Democratic frenemies, and what do they have against immigrants? Here is a short primer:
President Obama: Feels politically vulnerable to anti-immigrant attacks because of his father's Kenyan nationality. The Auntie Zeytuna story worried him a lot more than the Birther nonsense--a Kenyan blood relative living in public housing while waiting for her asylum application to be approved is a frightening thing for a politician who needs lots of votes from "moderates" in this Nation of Immigrant(-Hater)s. He talks a good game on the need to respect and embrace immigrants while deporting more people per year than Bush ever did and rejecting any meaningful administrative reform. When proposed meaningful administrative reforms were leaked to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Obama ran so fast he apparently forgot the reason his administration had drafted the reforms in the first place: to have something tangible to show the immigrant rights community given the complete and utter failure of his administration to move any pro-migrant immigration reform legislation through Congress.
Senator Schumer: Loves immigrants so much he wants to see them all self-deport before any pro-migrant legislation gets passed. Scratch that, he doesn't love immigrants at all. He berated and belittled hunger striking New York DREAMers who had the gall to challenge his authority, and he insists on calling undocumented immigrants "ILLEEGALZ" just like the nativists at NumbersUSA and ALIPAC. This is the person Democrats have decided will lead immigrants to the promised land by spearheading comprehensive immigration reform ... but the problem with putting someone who doesn't respect immigrants in charge of immigration reform is now obvious, as Schumer repeatedly broke promises and pushed back deadlines but Never. Actually. Introduced a Bill.
He's very good at blaming Republicans, though. Which has done wonders for the immigrant community.
Senator Reid: Momentarily forgot he is running a tight race in Nevada where he needs the Latin@ electorate to turn out. Senator Reid, remember the DREAM Act? Your base won't forget it even if you do.
In honor of the Democrats' uniquely ineffective approach to passing immigration reform, I'm planning to adopt a piecemeal voting strategy in favor of false-friend Democrats this fall. I'll go to the polls with the stated intention of voting for Democrats on the ballot, I'll even tell anyone who asks that is what I'm doing, but when it comes to actually entering the ballot box and pulling the lever, I'll suddenly remember that there's something else more urgent for me to do. Like ... clipping my toenails or rearranging that perpetually-messy desk drawer of office supplies.
Democrats can't count on immigrant rights voters to stick by them forever when they give them absolutely no reason to vote for them except that "The other side is worse." It's like the boyfriend who taunts his girlfriend to leave a bad relationship by saying, "You'll never do any better than me." Well I'm not planning to stick around forever in a crappy relationship, and I won't be surprised if other immigrant rights voters feel the same way.
[Hat tip to Roberto Lovato for the "Frenemy" framing.]