Is John Boehner Believable On Immigration?
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Last Week, President Obama told Latino voters to "punish our enemies".

As you can imagine, a lot of people were upset and the GOP has tried to gain some political mileage. In a rally for Republican candidates in Ohio, Speaker-presumptive John Boehner said:

"Today, sadly, we have president who uses the word 'enemy' for fellow Americans—fellow citizens. He uses it for people who disagree with his agenda of bigger government—people speaking out for a smaller, more accountable government that respects freedom and allows small businesses to create jobs. Mr. President, there's a word for people who have the audacity to speak up in defense of freedom, the Constitution, and the values of limited government that made our country great. We don't call them 'enemies.' We call them 'patriots.'" [John Boehner to hit President Obama on 'enemies', Mike Allen, Politico, November 1, 2010]

Great red meat stuff for Red State voters. But there's one minor problem. Obama wasn't talking about limited government, taxes, or freedom. He was talking about…immigration.

Obama's offending remarks came about this way: Univision Host Eddie Piolin gave him three choices on what to talk about in their interview:

"A.) Immigration reform B.) Immigration reform, C.) Immigration reform or D.) All of the above."

The enemies that Obama referred to in his reply were not supporters of job creation or the free market, but, he said,

"…those who are politicizing the issue, who are supportive of the Arizona law, who talk only about border security but aren't willing to talk about the other aspects of this, who don't support the Dream Act, who are out there engaging in rhetoric that is divisive and damaging that — those aren't the kinds of folks who represent our core American values."

Obama made it clear that his "enemies" were not mere Republicans by stating

"…if Latinos are gonna support Republicans, they should say to the Republican candidate, the price of our support is you publicly saying that you're gonna support comprehensive immigration reform". [Transcript of President Barack Obama with Univision, LA Times, October 25, 2010]

That Boehner would respond to Obama's attack on Americans who oppose amnesty and want to enforce our immigration laws by pretending that the president was talking about taxes should tell something about where his priorities are.

John Boehner is now probably the most powerful Republican in the country. With a 43-seat majority in the House, and dozens of moderate Democrats willing to support some patriotic immigration reform, any bill that the Republicans are solidly behind could easily pass the House.

But Boehner has a very mixed record on immigration. He has a career B- grade from NumbersUSA for his 20 years in Congress. Some of the positive aspects in his record: co-sponsoring the CLEAR Act that would empower local law enforcement to take on illegal immigration; voting against the Chrysler-Berman Amendment to HR 202, which would have massively increased legal immigration in 1996.

Unfortunately, there are serious negative aspects to Boehner's record too: he consistently votes in favor of increasing both high- and low-skilled guest workers, voted twice for the 245(i) Amnesty and for amnesty for Central Americans; and, most significantly, was one of just 17 Republicans to vote against HR 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005.

Boehner justified his opposition on the most important part of the act—mandating E-Verify—noting

"We can't strengthen our nation's borders by strangling our nation's economy. This bill has many strong points and I wanted badly to vote for it, but the massive employer mandates included in the bill ultimately made that impossible... under the guise of securing our borders, this bill gives the federal government authority to sign-off on every hiring decision in the country. Federal bureaucrats will have Americans' personal information at the touch of a button. This has 'Big Brother' written all over it. The vast majority of America's several million employers are law-abiding and should not be burdened with another cumbersome federal mandate. Forcing them each to REVERIFY the work authorization of ALL previously hired employees is impractical, unfair, and does little to combat the illegal immigration HR 4437 intends to address."

Somehow I doubt it is really Boehner's civil libertarian streak that made him vote against this bill, which even Ron Paul supported. Rather, Boehner was most likely influenced by the opposition of the Chamber of Commerce, National Restaurant Association, and the other business groups that lobbied against the bill.

This in 2008, Boehner signed the discharge petition for the SAVE Act that mandated E-Verify for all employers. Unlike HR 4437, the SAVE Act only requires E-Verify for new hires, but I don't see how this is really any less "Big Brother" and how it really palliates any of his initial purported objections.

My cynical explanation: between 2005 and 2008, immigration became a major issue for the Talk Show Right. Boehner knew that he would lose popularity if he opposed immigration enforcement.

Indeed, since becoming minority leader in 2007, Boehner has generally done and said the right thing. He has only made one minor bad vote in Congress. In 2007, he called the Senate Amnesty bill a "piece of s—" When asked about Arizona's SB 1070, he said "It has a 70 percent approval in Arizona and I think that we ought to respect the people of Arizona in their right to make their own decisions". When asked about repealing birthright citizenship for illegal aliens, he said it was "worth considering". [John Boehner backs Arizona law, criticizes Democrats,, April 27, 2010]

Yet talk is cheap. The fact is that, in this Congress, Boehner has not co-sponsored a single piece of immigration legislation. Nor did he sign onto Rep. Jason Chaffetz' anti-Amnesty resolution or the Immigration Reform Caucus's amicus brief on SB 1070.

Boehner clearly would like to ignore immigration as much as possible.

We'll be watching!

"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.

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