Right-wing infighting overshadows new bipartisan immigration reform plan

A bipartisan group of eight Democratic and Republican senators unveiled a framework for immigration reform yesterday, detailing plans to provide a pathway to legal permanent residency for the nation’s nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants.

“We still have a long way to go but this bipartisan blueprint is a major breakthrough,” said Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. “We do not want immigration as a wedge issue, we want a bipartisan bill that solves the problem.”

(As John notes in a post this morning, Schumer and fellow Democratic Senators Durbin, Menendez and Bennet agreed to Republican demands to axe a fix for binational gay couples from the plan.)

Undocumented immigrants who entered the country illegally would only earn permanent legal status once new requirements for securing the borders are met, requirements to be determined in part by a commission made up of a group of border governors and citizens. The senators failed to add whether this commission could hold up the legalization process indeterminately, or who specifically would make up the commission.

Other requirements include a clean record, paying back taxes, English language and civics prerequisites, and a work history.

The plan was quickly denounced by right-wing media as an Obama administration attempt to grant millions of immigrants amnesty, with the vast majority of critics also failing to note that the last president to actually grant amnesty (via the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986) was Republican President Ronald Reagan.  Oops.

“It’s up to me and Fox News [to stop immigration legislation], and I don’t think Fox News is that invested in this,” added talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Meanwhile, bogger Michelle Malkin christened GOP leaders as “bend-over Republicans.”

Numbers USA, designated an anti-immigrant group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, also condemned the framework. “The only force strong enough to slow down the amnesty juggernaut is the voice of the American people,” the organization pleaded in an email to its members. “For those of you who were part of our team in 2007, it’s deja vu all over again. You know the drill.”

The organization is popularly credited with derailing former Republican President George W. Bush’s 2007 immigration plans, flooding congressional fax machines and phones with letters and calls. While touting the support of the President, the Chamber of Commerce, and several top Latino organizations, the bill went on to die on the Senate floor.

Pushed on his reasoning for supporting immigration reform in 2012, GOP Senator John McCain of Arizona offered a blunt response: “Elections. The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens.” McCain supported President Bush’s immigration plan, but was forced to retreat before seeking the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

Equally as telling is Florida’s GOP Senator Marco Rubio refusing to use the pejorative term “illegal immigrant,” instead describing undocumented immigrants simply as “human beings.”  (I know, but for Rubio this counts as “growth.”)

With President Obama set to unveil his own immigration plans in Las Vegas today, Republican leaders still smarting from a humiliating Mitt Romney loss are realizing that capturing the key Latino bloc is vital to a Republican White House win. But with angry GOP constituencies smothering Republican leaders’ insistence that evolving is the only path to the GOP’s survival, the right’s ability to coalesce hangs by a delicate thread.

Gabe Ortíz is a San Francisco-based writer. He has contributed to the Mission's bilingual newspaper "El Tecolote," and the political blogs AMERICAblog, AMERICAblog Gay, and Veracity Stew. He's also a Stevie Nicks lover and shameless catlady. Follow him on Twitter: @Tusk81.

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