Last week, the Supreme Court was deadlocked, 4-4 on President Obama's executive action on immigration, reverting the matter to the lower court's ruling declaring it illegal. Conservatives are hailing this as a check against Obama's executive overreach and a victory. Speaker Ryan said, "It's a win for Congress, and it's a win in our fight to restore the separation of powers. Presidents don't write laws - Congress writes laws."
Paul Ryan is right, Obama's executive actions overstepped his authority. Immigration laws are Congress's responsibility. But he shouldn't stop there. The ruling provides Republicans in Congress an opportunity to start their much needed reboot with Hispanics.
Hillary Clinton will win the White House (I made the case for that here) and the Democrats will likely take back the Senate majority and together appoint Scalia's replacement to the Supreme Court. An additional liberal Justice would tip the scale, rendering the executive immigration action legal. Also, the Democratic Senate may pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that is unacceptable to conservatives, leaving the dwindling Republican majority House to fight it, digging our hole deeper with Latinos.
But it doesn't have to be that way. The Republican Growth and Opportunity Project that was commissioned in 2012 after Romney's loss said that Republicans "must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.” Comprehensive immigration reform was attempted in 2013, with the "Gang of Eight" when the Democrats had the Senate. Now that Republicans have the majority in both chambers, and with those majorities, the White House and Supreme Court in such jeopardy, they have a small window to send a more conservative comprehensive immigration bill to the President's desk.
With plummeting Hispanic favorability numbers for the Republican standard bearer, this could be just what the doctor ordered to start fighting back towards relevance with Latinos. Republicans would get to take credit for passing something of major importance to the Hispanic community. Rather than just be a few Republicans who jumped onto the Democrat's immigration reform band wagon like in 2013, it would be Republicans who crafted the bill and led the effort to get it passed. Obama, desperate for some positive legacy, would certainly sign it.
With that accomplishment under our belts, we could take the Republican message to the Hispanic community with credibility. Our proposals that are popular with Latinos such as school choice could finally be heard without immigration reform hanging over our heads.
Paul Ryan's plan calls for four sequential steps: secure the border, implement entry/exit visa tracking and E-verify, reform legal immigration by emphasizing guest-worker programs and high-tech visas and finally bringing the undocumented immigrants that are already here out of the shadows. To do that, he proposes a long probationary period with a "one-strike policy" before they are eligible to apply for a green card at the back of the line. "They must come forward, admit guilt, submit to a criminal-background check, pay back taxes and fines, and learn English and civics. They must prove they have a job, and they cannot receive any federal benefits."
This plan is great, it deals with the undocumented immigrants in a reasonable way that the President would sign. But in all candor, we don't have time for it to be four sequential bills. We don't have time to wait for one step to be completed before implementing the next. The White House and likely the Senate will be run by Democrats in January. These four measures need to be in one comprehensive bill and passed as soon as possible. It is imperative that immigration reform is a Republican led effort.
Now, that would make inroads towards getting serious about Hispanic community outreach from the GOP, but they can do even more to get the ball rolling for 2020. If Republican leadership could just realize and accept that Trump will not win (even if he could, it's probably better for the country that he doesn't), then they could with freedom rescind their quasi-endorsement/support of Trump. Hearing Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin explaining the difference between his “support” of Trump and an “endorsement” was actually kind of pathetic to listen to. The sooner GOP leadership disavows Trump unequivocally and passes comprehensive immigration reform, the sooner they can set their sights on winning in 2020, this time by carrying at least 40% of the Latino vote. Time is running out. Will we save ourselves or follow Trump off of the cliff?
Just one year after the Charleston massacre, another extremist struck an American city, this time killing 49 people in Orlando. Predictably, the left is calling for gun control and the right is fighting it. New gun regulations are not something to take lightly, we have the Second Amendment which guarantees our right to bear arms. However, there are certain measures that we can take that may make it more difficult for bad guys to get guns.
With that in mind I believe it's prudent that any proposed gun control measures meet a high standard for validity. Here are two proposals that I think meet that standard, and both are somewhat inspired by the two aforementioned shootings.
The first is to close the so-called Charleston Loophole. When we go to buy a firearm, the dealer makes a phone call to a section of the FBI that conducts a background check. For most of us, the background check is almost instant and we are able to proceed with our purchase. However for 10 percent of buyers, the check is delayed because there is something in their background that requires further review. The FBI then has three days to investigate and if by then they do not deny the request, the buyer may purchase the gun by default. This is the Charleston Loophole, so named because it is how Dylan Roof was able to purchase his gun.
South Carolina State Sen. Marlon Kimpson has been advocating for a bill that would extend the waiting period for delayed background checks from three days to 28 days, giving the FBI more time to investigate. This would affect a very small percentage of would-be buyers and for good reason, there is a high probability that they are prohibited purchasers. For these very few cases, it makes sense to give the FBI more time to make sure that these individuals are someone who is allowed to own a gun, that they aren't felons, drug addicts, spouse abusers or mentally ill.
The second proposal is to delay people who are on the No Fly List and Terrorist Watch List from purchasing a firearm. It would be an emergency delay for an extraordinary circumstance in the interest of national security. If a person who is on either of these lists tries to purchase a gun, they would be delayed for 30 days, alerting the FBI that there is an urgency for it to investigate the suspected terrorist. If after 30 days the FBI needs more time, it would be able to get an extension of up to 60 days from a judge. In total, someone who is a suspected terrorist would be delayed no more than 90 days without prosecution.
Democrats in Washington have proposed a total ban on guns for people on these lists and Republicans' answer is that it is taking away someone's Second Amendment rights without due process. Both sides have a point, so let's split the difference. By implementing an emergency delay rather than a total ban, you give the FBI time to investigate someone it believes to be a terrorist and perhaps find a piece of the puzzle it needs (knowing that he or she is attempting to buy a firearm) in order to thwart an attack. All this while ultimately maintaining the person's Second Amendment rights. Someone who is innocent won't have to go through all the red tape in order to restore their rights, they will simply need to wait 30 days (at most 90 days) and they will be able to purchase their firearm by default.
It's true that neither of these shootings would have been prevented by either of these proposals and the blame for that lays squarely on the FBI. In Charleston, the FBI failed to complete Dylan Roof's background check in an accurate and timely manner, allowing a prohibited purchaser to obtain a firearm. In Orlando, Omar Mateen was being investigated by the FBI that later deemed him to be no threat. The FBI needs to learn from these errors and reform their processes in order to prevent similar attacks going forward. But it's conceivable that Roof could have carried out his murder the day after he walked away with his gun. It's also conceivable that Mateen could have gone on his rampage while he was still being investigated by the FBI. This only affects the people who are the highest risk to us. Let's get behind these reforms and demand that the FBI do its part.
Every four years, Republicans have to swallow their pride and throw their support behind the nominee in order to face our common enemy —Democrats. Some candidates demand more out of us than others. One can only imagine the immense humility it took for Sen. Lindsey Graham to endorse Ted Cruz. But he knew it was for the greater good. That said, no mountain has ever been taller to climb for many principled Republicans than Donald Trump.
South Carolina’s leaders have fallen behind Trump, except for Sen. Graham. It’s significant that Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Trey Gowdy have said that they will back him, because to many, they represent a fresh face for conservatism, reform-minded leaders who can sell the conservative idea. We can expect to be able to defend their actions without compromising our basic moral code.
But their support of Trump is completely indefensible. Admittedly, the prospect of a Clinton administration and a liberal Supreme Court can give the staunchest of Never Trump champions second thoughts. But we can rely on Mr. Trump to reinforce our resolve when he does things like suggest that a judge can’t be impartial because he is of Mexican descent.
Sen. Graham said of the judge comments: “If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it. There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”
Those who continue to support Trump will have to give an account for his comments when the Trump flame burns out.
Our leaders seem to be slaves to party unity at all costs. But they ought to consider Sen. Graham’s advice and withdraw their support for Trump. They should reject the poisonous tenor of his campaign and call him what he is: a narcissistic, authoritarian populist who preys on people’s anger and anxieties. That would do more for the GOP than a desperate rally around Trump. I doubt politicians will admit a mistake, but dum spiro spero.