The immigration credibility gap: it isn’t just Obama’s

The House GOP leadership’s current line on immigration reform is that passage of legislation is in serious doubt due to lack of trust in President Obama’s willingness to enforce what Congress passes on the subject. Thus, Speaker Boehner says:

There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes. The American people, including many of my members, do not believe that the reform that we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be. The president seems to change the health-care law on a whim, whenever he likes. Now he’s running around the country telling everyone that he’s going to keep acting on his own.

Similarly, Paul Ryan finds that distrust of Obama has cast clear doubt over the prospects of passing immigration reform. And Marco Rubio is also promoting this line, the same line he spouted even as he was collaborating with Chuck Schumer to pass legislation that puts even more trust in Obama than what Ryan is contemplating.

Distrust of Obama is real and merited. Indeed, distrust of any administration’s willingness to enforce border security is merited. No modern administration, including Reagan’s, has stepped up to the plate on this.

But the distrust that Boehner, Cantor, Ryan, and Rubio should be worried about is the lack of trust in them by the Republican base. Have they noticed, for example, that their latest expressions of doubt about passing immigration reform legislation are not being taken seriously?

Mark Krikorian captures this sentiment in the title of this post, “Amnesty’s not dead yet; it’ll soon be feeling better.” Along the same lines, Andrew Stiles calls his latest posts on the subject “Immigration Opponents Suspect a Ruse” and “Boehner (Sort of) Casts Doubt on Immigration Reform.” He writes:

Before pronouncing immigration reform dead, it’s worth considering what the Huffington Post reported last July shorty after the Senate passed the Gang of Eight bill: “Immigration reform is not dead. The doom and gloom is being fed, at least in part, by GOP leadership, to help position them politically for the coming fight.​” That is why opponents of comprehensive reform are wary of any effort to downplay the issue.

As Dan Holler, communication director for Heritage Action, says (referring to the House GOP leadership’s statement of principles on immigration reform), “If you put out these principles and are willing to divide the party over this issue, you don’t do that unless you’re willing to move.”

The strong suspicion is that distrust of Obama isn’t what’s constraining Boehner and company, it’s fear of his caucus. The strong suspicion is that the leadership is playing down the issue now so that passions within the caucus will cool and base will relax. The strong suspicion is that as soon as filing dates for primary challenges to House members pass, the leadership will make a strong run at amnesty-style immigration reform.

Instead of worrying about lack of trust in Obama, Boehner and company should be concerned that the GOP base has lost confidence in them. And they should understand that if they yield to business pressure and push for amnesty, that confidence will never be regained.

In the meantime, don’t forget to keep those calls coming to your Republican congressman. The number for the U.S. Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121. The numbers for the GOP leaders we don’t trust are:

Boehner: 202-225-6205
McCarthy: 202-225-2915
Cantor: 202-225-2815
Ryan: 202-225-3031

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