What does being a citizen mean to you? To be able to vote? To be able to buy property and work without the threat of deportation? House Republicans are trying to redefine the meaning of citizenship. Why?
Citizenship without representation… second class citizenship… is an election strategy of House Republicans on immigration reform to win their seats back in 2014 and increase their chances of winning the White House in 2016. Everything on the immigration policy debate coming from House Republicans must be framed in terms of national elections. They lost the White House because of the non-White Hispanic immigrant voting-block of the Democratic Party. They will continue to lose badly if they don’t have a more moderate policy than say, “self-deportation” and boarder security.
We know what the strategy would mean for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living here: they can wash America’s dishes, care for its children, pay its taxes, etc. and hopefully get a minimum wage but they couldn’t vote for their political representatives, blunting their political power in elections and on policy.
The best outcome from this strategy for House Republicans is that removing the threat of deportation drives a wedge into the democratic voting coalition and minimizes the increase of democratic immigrant voters. This is a long shot. My bet is that this strategy won’t go far because it is at odds with the bipartisan Senate plan, President Obama’s proposal, and the feelings of the American people. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s recent support for a pathway to citizenship for DREAMERS is a major crack in the wall of Republican opposition to full citizenship.
There’s no doubt in my mind they are using this strategy to put themselves in a position so that if the Senate and House immigration bills merge together in conference, and a path to citizenship prevails, they can tell their constituents that while they lost, they fought hard against “amnesty” to get reelected in 2014.