Long gone are the giddy, heady days of June when the U.S. Senate passed a dairy friendly immigration reform bill.
That bill directs $46.3 billion toward border security and a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented workers currently here. The bill requires that borders be secured before the clock to citizenship begins. It also creates a blue card for undocumented ag workers who would pay a modest $400 fine. In turn, they would be allowed to permanently remain in the country.
Unfortunately, despicably, the Senate version is dead on arrival in the House of Representatives. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) will not bring immigration reform to a vote on the House floor until a majority of his party agrees to pass the measure.
That means 118 Republicans—a majority of the majority—will have to agree on some kind of reform package before the Speaker even brings immigration to a vote.
Nevertheless, the Republican leadership wants to get immigration reform settled. The Hispanic vote gave President Obama a second term in 2012. And failure to act on immigration reform just cements more Hispanic votes in Democratic Party columns.
But Republican leadership is one thing; rank and file members are another. House Republicans are as skittish as feral cats. One would think safe, gerrymandered Congressional districts would allow Republicans to act with impunity. The irony is that they can’t. They are scared to death of a primary election challenge from their far right, a.k.a. the Tea Party.
At best, Tea Partiers distrust the President and scoff at the thought that the Department of Homeland Security would secure the southern border. And they want every undocumented worker sent home.
They even want the kids of undocumented workers sent back to their parents’ native lands. Never mind that these kids grew up here, are here through no fault of their own and would be as foreign in Mexico as Tea Party kids would be in Luxembourg, Belgium or Germany.
Here’s the problem: If a Republican Congressman or woman even hints of compromising on immigration reform, a Tea Party candidate will rise to challenge them in the primary next year. And given the nature of most state primaries, the current Congressman or woman could lose.
"House Republicans are as skittish as feral cats."
There is one glimmer of hope. Although 2014 primary elections occur next spring and summer, the deadline to get on those primary ballots occurs much earlier: late winter to early spring. So at some point—months before the general election in November 2014—the danger of a surprise Tea Party primary challenge goes to zero as the filing deadline passes.
That might give House Republicans the opening they need to pass some kind of immigration reform package. Will it be as favorable as the Senate bill passed in June of this year? Probably not.
But at least something could be passed. That would make a Senate and House conference committee possible—and a final bill passable—next summer. All it takes is a majority of the majority.
Jim Dickrell, Editor
Jim Dickrell is the Editor of Dairy Today. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.