Demonstrators display placards during a rally in front of the Statehouse, in Providence, R.I., Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Inside Washington on Monday, the realest talk on comprehensive immigration reform came around 3:45 in the afternoon, an hour after the “Gang of Eight” released its comprehensive immigration reform proposal.
That’s when Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III of Alabama walked onto the floor of the Senate and started throwing ice-cold water on all this highfalutin immigration talk:
In 2006 and 2007, with the full support of the Republican president of the United States, a bipartisan committee announced with great confidence they had a plan that’s going to fix our immigration system, and we were all just going to line up and vote for it. The masters of the universe decided.
They met in secret, they had all the special interest groups gather, and they worked out a plan that was going to change our immigration system for the better. And we should all be grateful.
It came up in 2006; it did not pass. It came back in 2007 with even more emphasis; it failed colossally. It failed because it did not do what they said it would do. It did not end the illegality. It did not set forth a proper principle of immigration for America, it did not sufficiently alter the nature of our immigration system to advance the national interest of the United States. It did not. And that’s why it didn’t pass.
It had all the powerful forces—it had the TV guys and newspaper guys and the Wall Street guys and the agriculture guys and the civil rights groups and the La Raza groups and the politicians. But the American people said no.
If you substitute “my overwhelmingly white, Southern constituents” for “the American people,” that is indeed exactly what happened. And it is quite likely to happen again. When one examines polls of Republican voters on immigration reform, and then looks at how many Congressional seats are held by the GOP, it is sadly easy to see that despite all the rosy talk, real immigration reform will remain elusive.
One week after November’s election, when defeat was presumably most raw for Republican voters, and stories abounded about the demographic doom facing the GOP, the Washington Post and ABC News conducted a poll about immigration reform.
The top line was that more Americans were now backing a pathway to citizenship. (A pathway to citizenship is essential to any comprehensive immigration reform—it is comprehensive immigration reform. Otherwise we’re just talking about more border security.) But when broken down by party identification, the results weren’t nearly as promising:
Not only did a mere 37 percent of Republicans nationwide favor a pathway to citizenship, only 11 percent strongly supported it. By comparison, 47 of the 60 percent who opposed it felt strongly about that view.