The president's forthcoming executive amnesty and enforcement actions are likely to be an immigration Rubicon for the Republican Party — for its supporters, its elected officials, and its 2016 presidential candidates.
Let me start with Republican supporters and their elected officials. A recent Pew poll tells all in its title: "Neither Party Gets Good Marks from Its Base for Handling Illegal Immigration". According to the poll, 56 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners feel that the Republican Party is not doing a good job on illegal immigration.
The gap between the Republican leadership and ordinary Americans who support the GOP is not confined to immigration. Pew asked questions about several other areas and found that 60 percent of Republicans say the party does not do a good job of representing their views on government spending, 53 percent say the same thing about same-sex marriage, and a substantial 45 percent same have the same complaint about their party's representation on abortion.
The president's executive amnesty is going to be a very high-stakes, high-visibility event. Every congressional Republican office holder should be required to state his or her position on the president's threatened amnesty before it happens. Where do Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Marco Rubio, Republican members of the original "Gang of Eight" stand on the president's executive amnesty?
What of the other Republican senators who voted for the 2013 Democratic immigration bill? Where do Sens. Alexander, Ayotte, Collins, Corker, Hatch, Heller, Hoeven, Murkowski, and Kirk stand on the president's executive amnesty? (The 14th Republican vote for the bill, Sen. Chiesa, has already left the Senate.)
The same question should be asked of every House Republican, especially those like Mario Diaz-Balart or Jeff Denham, who come from districts with a substantial Hispanic presence and have been outspoken advocates of "comprehensive reform". Does their support for many of the features contained in a House version of the Senate's Democratic immigration bill extend to the president's actions?
Republicans in Congress, whatever their specific views of immigration reform, ought to be able to speak with a single, unified voice in this matter.
And then there are the GOP's presidential hopefuls, every one of whom should be pressed on where they stand. Will they, as Mitt Romney did, promise not to rescind President Obama's DACA executive immigration action for those already covered by the time he took office?
After the president issued his DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) executive amnesty, "Mitt Romney told the Denver Post ... that he would not cancel temporary reprieves from deportation that President Obama is granting to hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants."
He later clarified that stance to say that he "would end an Obama administration policy allowing some young illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work, though anyone already granted a reprieve from possible deportation wouldn't see that permission revoked."
That didn't much help his vote totals from Hispanics, a performance that gave rise to panic in some circles of the Republican party that, ironically, is likely to lead to a replay of the very same advice in 2016.
It's a dead end for the Republican Party. It would leave many voters with the impression that Republicans care more about winning elections, by any means necessary, than they do about standing firm for long-standing principles of American governance and staying on the side of ordinary Americans.
Next: Immigration Lame-Duck Fantasies Redux, Pt. 1