The Corner

The GOP’s ‘Piecemeal’ Immigration Strategy Could Be Comprehensive After All

National Journal has an interesting article on House speaker John Boehner’s “election-year immigration strategy.” House leadership, apparently, is going to start proposing some immigration principles, if not bills per se:

John Boehner is planning to unveil a set of Republican principles for immigration reform before President Obama’s State of the Union address, aiming to show the GOP is not hostile to legislation that might win them Hispanic voters.

According to House leadership and immigration-policy aides, the principles will be broad, nebulous even, and heavily focused on Republicans’ favorite immigration issue—border security. It will not include any concrete proposal, they said. Indeed, the wording is likely to be intentionally squishy, giving lawmakers lots of room to maneuver.

But no matter what happens, Boehner will come out a winner just for the effort. If it flops over hardliners’ objections to anything that approaches amnesty for illegal immigrants, Boehner and Republican campaign leaders looking for cash can still tell the business community they tried. What’s more, it could lay the groundwork for a Republican overture to Hispanic voters, a group everyone sees as critical to winning in 2016.

Of course, if the House does act on immigration reform, GOP leaders have promised a “piecemeal” approach that would address various aspect of reform — border security, interior enforcement, guest-worker programs, and potentially a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants — one bill at a time. They have repeatedly denounced the “comprehensive” nature of the Gang of Eight bill, which is more than 1,000 pages long, as reminiscent of the Obamacare legislation.

However, the article goes on to cite Tamar Jacoby, president of Immigration Works USA and “a Republican advocate for immigration reform who is familiar with the House strategy,” who suggests that the end result of this “piecemeal” approach would be a large comprehensive proposal that would be cobbled together over a short period of time.

Jacoby likens the “piecemeal” approach to immigration reform to the seven courses of a Thanksgiving dinner—all the pieces add up to a voluminous whole. “Everything will get done fairly quickly over a few days or weeks,” she said. “In leadership’s conception, the pieces address pretty much all the major issues.” 

Conservative critics of the Gang of Eight bill have long suspected the GOP’s “piecemeal” strategy is just a political ruse to get to a comprehensive result. Real step-by-step reform, they argue, would involve passing border-security legislation, for example, and only taking up other elements of reform once those changes have been signed into law and implemented.

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...