"The serious problems in our immigration system must be solved, and we are committed to working in a bipartisan manner to solve them." - From the preamble of the House Republicans' "standards for immigration reform," released Jan. 30
Well, that didn't last long.
A week after declaring that it's time to deal with the "political football" of immigration reform, House Speaker John Boehner is threatening to punt again.
"The American people, including many of my members, don't trust that the reform that we're talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be," Boehner said last week, icing the optimism that greeted the GOP's outline for a promised legislative package.
The document acknowledges that the failure to repair our broken immigration system - a failure that rests squarely on House Republicans' refusal to do anything at all - "is hurting our economy and jeopardizing our national security." It's sprinkled liberally with phrases like "it is past time" and "it is imperative" and "we must."
But never mind all that. In a matter of days, the hope that immigration reform might be realized by the end of this year has been replaced by the excuse that it can't possibly happen as long as Barack Obama is president.
What the Republicans are saying is that immigration reform is critical to the nation's long-term interests, but the status quo will just have to do for three more years. And Boehner is saying he doesn't have the muscle to do what he just finished saying must be done.
Let's be clear: If the House refuses to take up immigration reform this year, it's not on Obama. It's on Boehner.
The Obama administration has deported 2 million people since 2009, far more than were deported during eight years under George W. Bush, whose calls for immigration reform went unheeded by his own party. Obama has taken a lot of heat from immigration activists, but his emphasis on enforcement helped create what emerged last week as an opening for compromise.
For the first time, Democrats in Congress signaled a willingness to consider something short of a special path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants who came to the country illegally.
The president has insisted on such a provision, and hard-line Republicans have ruled it out, calling it "amnesty." But many advocates for immigrants now say that ending the threat of deportation is more important than the promise of citizenship.
That opens the door to an agreement under which those immigrants could remain in the country without hiding, and American businesses could hire the workers they need legally. But House Republicans are apparently willing to take a pass on that opening to placate the hard-liners, who are threatening to take out the speaker if he pushes for immigration reform in an election year.
The blowback over the Republicans' cautious embrace of immigration reform did not come from "the American people." In poll after poll, the American people strongly support comprehensive immigration reform - including, by the way, a path to earned citizenship. Boehner knows that.
For Republicans, failure to act is shortsighted and self-defeating, and Boehner knows that, too. Latino voters are the fastest growing segment of the electorate - aka the American people - and 70 percent of them cast ballots for Obama in 2012.
That got the attention of Senate Republicans, who brokered a bipartisan immigration bill that Boehner refuses to call for a vote - a position that's defensible only if his chamber is serious about coming up with its own solution. If that's not the case, the speaker has only himself to blame.