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Immigration reform is possible but the window closes

Por Alfredo Bravo de Rueda
December 2021
Although it has been a few months since I wrote this plan, implementing it is still possible and, so far, it’s the only one that could make immigration reform possible. It consists of adapting the experience of Thad Cochran in Mississippi in 2014. At that time, Cochran saved his seat from the neoConfederate Chris McDaniel in the 2014 primaries with the help of the Democrats he turned to. 
  1. In 2006 and 2013, immigration reform attempts failed because when the republicans who supported these proposals returned to their electoral districts, they faced challenges in the primary, as Eric Cantor did, by the far right. (Remember that Eric Cantor, the number 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, was challenged in the primary not for supporting tax increases and public spending or greater regulation of the economy, but for trying to save the 2013 “split” immigration reform effort). And, unless we win vast majorities in the House of Representatives and more than 60 seats in the Senate, immigration reform is going to need at least 10 Republican senators. Going after unicorns like Budget Reconciliation Rules will only waste time and political capital at a time when the emergence here and in other countries of a ‘social nativist’ right (as Thomas Piketty calls it) could make it impossible for decades if we fail now. Add to that the poor work of Mayorkas on the border, the myopia of certain activists with access to Mayorkas, and that of certain democrats such as Ron Klain; the growing Hispanic support for Trump in the last two elections (up 4% only in the 2020 elections); The depressed economy in border districts (closed to traffic for months as Trump Republicans actively redirect their frustration toward immigrants) and the result may be a growing number of Democrats who forget about immigration, or use it to negotiate other issues. Especially if traditional Republicans retire and Trump Republicans remain.
  2. It will be very difficult to sell immigration as a single issue. But there are still enough anti-Trump Republicans in Congress who immigrants may care little about, but those who Trump does care about, and immigration is the main motivator of Trump’s base. That is why anti-Trump Republicans, if we offer to support them in the next primaries, could support immigration reform and minimum standards in voting and elections (including redistricting). Because immigration is the main motivator of Trump’s base, and primaries are the sources of his power. This limited alliance could involve one or two primaries, and the power of the far-right in the GOP would be seriously diluted. This limited alliance could use a filibuster to protect these gains against any attempt by pro-Trump Republicans to reverse them.
  3. Problem: Anti-Trump congressional Republicans are retiring and will be replaced by pro-Trump Republicans, so unless we implement this plan in the next primaries, it's going to be much harder to implement in 2024 since it would involve backing challengers rather than headlines. And while these anti-Trump Republicans have already stated that they plan to retire, it would not be unusual to see them retract those announcements. We just have to give them one reason.
  4. Favorable Conditions: Former President George Bush has been advocating immigration reform this year, and, in isolation, groups of anti-Trump Republicans have been willing to negotiate, even in redistricting, just to get rid of the far right. And the fieldwork done by unions like Nevada Cuisine and Unite Here for Biden in 2020, which could be used to contact enough Democratic voters and direct them to Republican primaries, is still fresh (in return for which these unions would rightly merit some concession in this limited alliance). But this plan requires leadership with enough contacts to summon the different actors who can give it life.
  5. Such a proposal requires the presence of Republicans such as Carlos Gutiérrez or the Diaz-Balart brothers to create a bridge to traditional Republicans and, perhaps, former President Bush himself; Republicans willing to endorse immigration reform, and those who may not care much about immigration reform, but who do want to contain what Trump represents within his party.
  6. This proposal also requires a product (a bill) that those Republicans can be comfortable with (since it would be unrealistic to expect them to endorse the Schumer proposal). And that bill must be compatible with the Schumer proposal at the Conference. Here, too, I have a legislative proposal.
  7. This tactic also requires a new narrative and a new strategy (which I will deal with in the next article but which, if you want to read it now, it is here). And even if we do not get enough anti-Trump Republican votes to pass immigration reform, a new strategy will be needed for damage-control purposes, especially if Trump, directly or indirectly, returns to power in 2024. And, if we are short of a small margin in 2022, we can expect to relaunch this tactic in 2024 from a much stronger base.
Finally, let me know if you liked Gatito Immeegrante, @GatitoInmeegran on Twitter

Looking forward to hearing from you, 
Alfredo Bravo de Rueda


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