What does Reince Priebus mean by “comprehensive immigration reform”?

The RNC has said that Republicans “must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform” in order to gain appeal among Hispanic voters. But RNC Chairman Reince Priebus now insists that he and his Committee are not taking a position on immigration.

Priebus’ claim insults our intelligence. Yes, in theory “comprehensive immigration reform” could mean almost anything. A bill that ended all legal immigration, sent the U.S. Army en masse to the border, and called for the aggressive deportation of every illegal alien would qualify as comprehensive immigration reform.

But in the context of the ongoing immigration debate, comprehensive immigration reform, to my knowledge, has always meant, in part, doing something for (not against) the millions of illegal aliens who reside in the U.S. Moreover, we know that this is what Priebus means because only by doing something for illegal aliens can the GOP hope to gain appeal among Hispanic voters. If the Party “embraces and champions” legislation that does nothing for illegals, it will be worse off than if it avoids talking about the subject.

Accordingly, it is absurd for Priebus to claim that he’s not taking a position on immigration. Clearly, he and his Committee favor doing something on behalf of illegal aliens in order to change the Party’s image among Hispanic (and probably other) voters. That’s a position.

There are only two serious things that can be done for illegal aliens. One is to grant them amnesty; the other is to grant them amnesty plus a path to citizenship.

It is true that Priebus hasn’t taken a position on which of these two approaches he prefers. The problem is that only supporting a path to citizenship holds any promise for making inroads with Hispanic voters. If Republicans balk at providing that path, they become the Party that embraces second class status for millions of hardworking Hispanics — accepting them as our gardeners and caretakers, but denying them equality and the chance to share fully in the American dream. This is hardly a stance that will appeal to Hispanic voters

If Priebus doesn’t understand this reality, he is being foolish. If he does understand it, then, like Sens. Rubio, McCain, and Graham (whose work on immigration he complimented) he favors a path to citizenship, but simply won’t admit it.

To be clear, there are reasons one might support comprehensive immigration reform that provides for amnesty but not path to citizenship. These reasons include (1) obtaining concessions, such as better enforcement, in exchange, (2) the argument that we have de facto amnesty already, and (3) the belief that we shouldn’t force people from whom our population receives services to live under a cloud.

But the prospect of winning Hispanic votes is not a reason to support such reform.


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