Not only have House Republican leaders ditched a comprehensive immigration overhaul from the Senate, now they are even blocking a more modest effort from one of their own.
House GOP leaders have refused to allow a vote on legislation from Republican Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) that would provide legal status and a path to citizenship for immigrants who serve in the military.
Last week, Denham tried to attach his bill to the National Defense Authorization Act, a sweeping must-pass annual spending bill. But GOP leaders blocked a vote on the amendment. Denham has vowed to try again.
The country has a long history of naturalizing immigrants through military service. In 2002, President George W. Bush expedited citizenship for those who served after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks — including those here illegally. Since then, the Immigration Policy Center estimates, 53,000 immigrants, those with legal status and not, have obtained citizenship through military service.
Denham, a former Air Force crew chief who served in Desert Storm, argued to his GOP colleagues that he knew many immigrants during his time in the service, and that they served the nation faithfully.
Just as important to Denham, he represents a Central Valley agriculture-heavy district in California that is 40% Latino, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
But Denham is a bit of an outlier in the party. Most Republican lawmakers represent districts that have been gerrymandered into conservative strongholds, with few minority populations.
In the name of safeguarding the nation, acute violations of human rights go unchallenged
As the interminable debate in Washington over immigration reform wears on, undocumented migrants in the U.S. continue to exist at the mercy of law enforcement efforts that defy all pretenses of justice and legality.
Earlier this year, Al Jazeera America reported on the stop-and-frisk-style raids being conducted in New Orleans by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to boost migrant deportation quotas. In that article, a Honduran immigrant recounts his experience of being handcuffed and shackled in the back of an ICE vehicle, which had been deployed to round up undocumented people using racial profiling techniques, saying, “I heard one of the agents say to another, ‘This is like going hunting.’ … And the other responded, ‘Yeah, I like this s—.’”
Also mentioned in the article is the fact that ICE agents in New Orleans “use mobile fingerprinting devices similar to those used by the U.S. military during its counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
If we add to this mix the prevalence of abuse that deportees face from federal officials, fatal shootings of migrants by Border Patrol personnel and the rampant construction of nativist border walls, it begins to appear that the U.S. is indeed waging a war on immigration. It starts at the very top: Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama has overseen more deportations than any other president in history — nearly 2 million people in the six years he has been in office.
The severity of such statistics is partially camouflaged by Republican accusations that Obama isn’t tough enough on immigration. Meanwhile, he is able to invoke Republican intransigence to excuse his inaction on reform. That much is clear. What is less clear and much more insidious is that political inertia ultimately benefits those in power, regardless of party.