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?