Immigration reform was declared effectively dead last week by none other than Congressman Luis Gutierrez from Chicago. He’s been the heart and soul of the comprehensive effort since the turn of the century.
Anyone who has ever been in the presence of the deeply committed Chicago representative knows just how valiant a fighter he is on the issue. He tirelessly built coalitions, lobbied and pushed the effort forward at every opportunity.
When he proclaims defeat it seems inevitable that it is so.
Gutierrez used the World Cup analogy declaring Republicans in the House had received a “red card” from Hispanics and other groups who had relied on common sense and political considerations to force House Speaker John Boehner to bring it up for a vote.
“I gave you the warning three months ago, and now I have no other choice,” Gutierrez said. “You’re done. You’re done. Leave the field, too many flagrant offenses and unfair attacks. You’re out. Hit the showers. It’s the red card.
“Your chance to play a role in how immigration and deportation policies are carried out this year are over,” he declared. “Having given ample time to craft legislation, you failed.”
As Gutierrez noted, there is a strong majority among the moderate GOP members and the Democrats in the House to pass such a bill – but Boehner has preferred to not let it happen.
But let’s not put all the blame on Boehner. There are lots of questions about tactics on the Democratic side too.
For two years after he was elected President Obama had a Democratic House and Senate to work with.
It was certainly possible in that time frame to shape a majority in favor of immigration reform.
Yet he decided to prioritize elsewhere and to face away from the fight in order to pass Obamacare.
Members of his staff, most notably Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, wanted nothing to do with immigration reform and made that abundantly clear.
On Monday Obama said that he would take executive action to enact some immigration reform measures given the reluctance of the House to move the issue.
“America cannot wait forever for [Republicans] to act. That’s why today I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own,” he said. We’ll see how far he goes.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not raise the issue when she could have either, preferring to let it lie fallow despite the fact that she had the votes to pass it.
So there is more than a hint of hypocrisy about the Democratic attacks. Both Obama and Pelosi bear responsibility as well for not prioritizing the battle for immigration reform.
There is a finger-pointing game going on at present, but the sight of thousands of unaccompanied little children showing up at the southern border sends its own desperate message of the urgent need for reform. Our common humanity surely demands that we can do better as a nation.