Why Do Conservatives Have to Go Small on Immigration Reform?

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte.

The word came last week that to deflect attention away from the disunity in the Republican House Caucus over comprehensive immigration reform, the House leadership would “try to do something” for the DREAMers. I thought that meant they would try to pass the DREAM Act as a piecemeal bill, but I was wrong.

Conservatives are writing something they are calling the KIDS Act to cover some subset of the DREAMers. It will be, as Kevin Fung said earlier today, the DREAM Act-lite. This is a politically stupid thing to do. If the bill is being written to assuage the anger of Latino and Asian voters over the association of conservatives with anti-immigrant positions, it will fail to serve that political purpose.

The KIDS Act is seen by educated observers as a way to undermine broader reform, which is inevitable for any piecemeal legislation. But it is even worse than that. The failure to adopt or enhance the DREAM Act language makes the prospective bill seem like a sop thrown to an undervalued constituency. In other words, it is pandering, and not very good pandering at that.

I always ask why, if most Republicans in the House are not really looking to tar and feather immigrants brought here by their parents as children, they don’t write a bill that is more expansive than the current DREAM Act. There are improvements that could be made in the DREAM Act incorporated in the Senate Immigration Reform bill passed in June. House Republicans could get credit for doing a better job on this issue than the Senate did.

C’mon Republicans, Go Big or Go Home.


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