My Turn: Immigration politics — The Republican pawn game

  • The sun shines on the dome of Capitol Hill in Washington, in August. AP

Published: 10/27/2022 4:51:18 PM

Congressional immigration politics often resemble a game of chess between candidates who take turns blaming each other for the crisis and misrepresent each other’s commitment to immigration reform.

Recently, however, Republicans have altered their chess strategy by using human pawns to enhance their political standing. Governors Abbott and DeSantis now utilize Venezualen refugees to support their claim that the Biden Administration lacks an immigration policy. In Arizona and elsewhere, Republicans will be repeating this disingenuous accusation through Election Day.

Does their charge have merit? No, and undisputed facts bear this out.

In 2013, Senate bill S.744 provided an expansive bipartisan solution for the immigration problem. It passed in the Senate, 68-32. The proponents were the “Gang of Eight” and the legislation was named the “Border Security Economic Opportunity and Immigration Act.” Republican Senators Lindsay Graham, Marco Rubio, John McCain and Jeff Flake joined Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer, Richard Durbin, Robert Menendez and Michael Bennett as joint sponsors of the bill. It included border security and visa eligibility and before immigrants could qualify, 700 miles of fencing had to be constructed along with deployment of 38,405 border patrol agents.

The bill had five separate sections : Title I, Border Security, Title II Immigrant Visas, Title III Interior Enforcement, Title IV, Reforms to Nonimmigrant Visa Programs and Title V, Jobs for Youth. Each contained specific sections to implement their goals and 92 amendments were adopted prior to passage.

Cost benefit analysis of the bill proved substantial savings. According to the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, the fiscal and economic savings from the bill would reduce the federal budget deficit by approximately $1 trillion over 20 years .

But “A funny thing happened on the way to the House” and Republican House Speaker Boehner unilaterally killed the bill and insisted he would block a vote because “the American people and their elected officials don’t trust [President Obama] to enforce the law as written”.

So, the bipartisan bill died. The comprehensive legislation never went further due to the intransigence of one Republican — despite the support of his own colleagues. Nevertheless, nine years later, Republican candidates use Venezualen refugees as their props to blame the president and their supporters still adhere to Donald Trump’s simplistic “build the wall” strategy.

In 1957, a renowned film, “Twelve Angry Men” portrayed the tortuous deliberations of 12 jurors in a murder trial. Initially, few could reach agreement but required to reach a verdict, they eventually rendered a decision.

It is time to lock House and Senate members in their chambers, present them with a copy of S .744 and insist that they remain there until they reach consensus on that bill or a reasonable facsimile. Enough is enough. The heartless Republican immigration tactic of using Venezualen refugees as pawns on their political chess board should be rejected.

Steven E. Kramer is a native of Greenfield who attended Deerfield Academy. He currently lives in Mashpee.


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