We Need Immigration Reform Now More Than Ever

The origin of the Republican party’s modern hostility to immigration can be found in its Southern Strategy. This was the electoral strategy devised by Richard Nixon to play upon white racial resentment to win elections. Subsequent GOP nominees such as Reagan, Bush41 and Romney all used code words and winks and nods to let the racists within the GOP know that they stood with them.

In 2016, Trump took off the mask and ran out as an out right racist. There were no hints from the former TV reality star. Right out of the gate, he labeled Hispanics “rapists” and “murderers.” Trump ran the most openly racist presidential campaign since George Wallace’s third party bid in 1968.

It was this stoking of racial hatred and resentment that led to the right wing of the GOP’s opposition to immigration reform. It is the conservative wing of the GOP that has stymied immigration reform and caused our current broken immigration system.

Since he has been a member of the U.S. of Representatives, Jeff Fortenberry has voted with the most extreme elements of the House GOP caucus on immigration bills. Fortenberry is known for two things: He is a slavish follower of his party bosses; and he is very reluctant to offend the right wing base of the GOP.

In 2005, Fortenberry voted for the now infamous Sensenbrenner immigration crackdown bill that among other things, would have made it a felony for being in the U.S. without authorization. It is a civil – not a criminal offense – to be in the U.S. as an undocumented worker or aspiring American.

The Sensenbrenner bill went so far as to make it a felony for anybody who provided assistance to an aspiring American. For example, a priest who helped out an aspiring American could have been hit with a felony rap.

Two years later, Fortenberry didn’t lift a finger to help pass immigration reform. It was in 2007, that a conservative Republican filibuster killed a bi-partisan immigration reform bill in the Senate co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy and John McCain. This legislation was a classic compromise that consisted of an earned pathway to citizenship and more resources for border security.

In 2010, Fortenberry had another chance to improve our broken immigration system but he voted against the Dream Act. The bill passed the House but it was blocked by a right wing filibuster in the Senate. This bill would have created an earned pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans brought to the U.S. as children.

The most recent opportunity to reform our immigration system was in 2013 when the Senate passed a bill similar to the 2007 Kennedy-McCain bill by an overwhelming 68-32 majority. This time, John Boehner was afraid to offend the extremists in the House GOP caucus and never allowed an up or down vote on the bill even though it had a support of the majority in the House.

Instead of allowing a vote on a bill that would have fixed our immigration system, Boehner held a vote in 2013 on a bill that would have defunded the DACA program and allowed the federal government to treat Dreamers in the same way as violent criminals. In what should come as no surprise, Mr. Fortenberry voted in favor of this destructive legislation.

Trump’s decision to rescind the DACA program on September 5 was just the latest episode of this long history of the GOP leadership pandering to the radical right on immigration. The former TV reality star passed the buck on DACA to the same people who have killed immigration reform since at least 2005. The chances of this Congress passing some kind of protections for Dreamers is between slim and none.

I’m appalled that the Trump Administration is going to end the DACA program. The Dreamers’ home country is the U.S. They were brought here as small children by their parents. The Dreamers are our neighbors, friends & colleagues. They are an asset to the U.S.

  • The average DACA recipient is 26 and came to the US at age 6.
  • 91% are employed.
  • 100% have no criminal record.
  • They pay $500 to renew every 2 years.
  • 95% are working and/are in school.
  • 63% got a better paying job.
  • 54% bought their first car.
  • 48% got a job with better working conditions.
  • 12% bought their first home.

In a better world, Congress would act immediately to overturn Trump’s executive order and protect the Dreamers. Moreover, a competent Congress would reform our immigration laws. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that Mr. Fortenberry and his colleagues will do anything after years of failure.

The ultimate solution is to elect more Democrats to Congress in 2018. I’m running for Congress because my views on immigration are diametrically opposed to those of my opponent. As a member of Congress, I would vote to protect the Dreamers and fix our dysfunctional immigration system. If you want different results out of Washington, you have to vote for different people. Let’s repeal and replace Fortenberry and take back the House in 2018!

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