What Speaker Boehner Could Achieve: A Focused, Public Interest Immigration Grand Bargain

By Stanley Renshon on December 4, 2013

As is always the case with "if it bleeds, it leads" journalism, a great deal of attention has been paid to orchestrated nationwide efforts, including those by the president, to keep the heat on Republicans in the House to pass immigration bills that could be reconciled with the Senate's massive legislation. Sit-ins, hunger strikes, blocking traffic, and other efforts to pressure House Republicans have not had their desired effect and House Republicans continue plug along on a series of possible immigration bills.

House Speaker

John Boehner (R-Ohio)

What House Republicans have succeeded in doing is out-waiting the immigration panic that set in some quarters after the 2012 presidential election and thus avoided being forced to acknowledge the truth of the aphorism "act in haste, repent in leisure".

But what should House Republicans do with the time they have gained for themselves by not succumbing to panic?

One answer is that they should take the president at his word, pass a series of immigration reform measures, send them to the Senate one at a time and wait for the Senate to act by passing them and sending them on to the president to sign. Then and only then, after the president has signed that measure into law, should any further bills be sent — again, one at a time.

Underlying this process would be the following basic ideas:

  1. Reforming American immigration policy in the public interest does not require an omnibus bill of over a thousand pages;

  2. Reforming American immigration laws and procedures does not require that every issue be resolved at once, in one narrow time period. Some aspects of immigration reform, such as what to do about high- and low-skilled workers, would benefit from more study and analysis conducted by a bipartisan commission staffed with independent-minded leaders and academics, rather than by advocates trying to further their own more narrow self interests;

  3. At the heart of any real immigration reform is likely to be a basic and fundamental trade-off, call it a small comprehensive grand bargain: some form of legalization for only those for whom it can be reasonably justified coupled with serious and effective procedures, put into place, to stop — to the extent possible — illegal migration. Any concession made regarding legalization must be viewed in the context of ensuring that the United States is not subject to another round of avoidable divisive debates about illegal migration again.

    That is an abiding, central public interest core of any immigration reform, and the basis for making concessions that many would prefer not to make.

Next: What Speaker Boehner Could Achieve: A Focused, Public Interest Immigration Grand Bargain, Part 2