Yesterday, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) published a report outlining a strategy to counter Obama’s executive actions on immigration—and it represents a significant shift from their longstanding obstructionism designed to halt progress and score political points.
The report comes from Stanley Renshon, a CIS fellow and a professor of political science at the City University of New York. It is the second installment in CIS’s four-part series on executive action.
A change in strategy?
Renshon argues that the focus of the anti-immigrant movement’s strategy to defeat executive action must be political, meaning it “must make and win its arguments in the court of public opinion.” He then outlines his understanding of the political factors at play, including timing, executive action’s standing as a seminal political event, the President’s approval rating, public opinion about immigration enforcement, and the fact that executive action is current government policy and will likely remain so.
A few sections in, Renshon’s report starts to get interesting. He argues, “An effective overall counter strategy to the president’s administrative amnesties must begin with a very basic, but powerful, fact: You can’t beat something with nothing. Something legislatively substantive needs to be put on the table to counter the president’s executive amnesty.”
This is certainly counter to the GOP’s current strategy of obstructionism — holding publicity-oriented hearings solely intended to criticize the President’s policies and introducing bills simply to serve as partisan fodder.
But many people don’t know that the GOP’s obstructionism on immigration has been fed directly by the anti-immigrant movement.
CIS research has fueled many of these just-for-show hearings and CIS spokespersons have regularly testified at them. CIS’s sister organizations Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA have championed obstructionist tactics such as calling for a DHS shutdown, putting public pressure on Congress to defund administrative relief regardless of the legislative cost, and supporting poison pill amendments attacking birthright citizenship.
In this context, Renshon’s exhortation for the GOP to do something rather than nothing seems to reflect a recognition that past tactics have been ineffective.
Could this signal a real change in the anti-immigrant movement’s strategy?
But no change in goals
Unfortunately, there’s no sign of a change in the anti-immigrant movement’s ultimate goals despite the potential for a change in tactics. Renshon sketches the outlines of a legislative proposal (to be elucidated in a future report), and adds a final twist, suggesting the creation of an “Immigration Commission” to examine the following questions:
- “What is a reasonable number of legal immigrants to take in every year, and on what bases should that question be considered?”
- “How many farm and high-tech workers are needed and what is the best way to handle that need?”
- “What can be done within and throughout our major political, cultural, and economic institutions to further the development of a primarily, but not necessarily exclusively American, identity as opposed to narrower ones.”
Of course, these questions are designed to support some of the deepest desires of the organized anti-immigrant movement.
These goals include reducing the level of authorized immigration and undermining the current system of family-based immigration, using immigrants as workers to advance U.S. industry without allowing them to fully participate in the life of this country, and ensuring the future dominance of what Renshon sees as the American identity, defined implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) as white.
As the GOP moves forward with efforts to counter President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, Renshon cautions them against acting out of anger at the President’s actions.
“The feelings associated with that anger are a disinclination to give the president any political rewards in the form of passing policies that he might want to punish him for his behavior. This, too, is an understandable, perhaps emotionally satisfying, but ultimately counter-productive strategy,” Renshon argues. “The power of a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, when the president would like to see a bill passed that he can sign, is exactly the leverage that comes with that fact.”
CIS is a driving force behind the anti-immigrant movement, and has significant sway with many GOP members. Perhaps this report will serve as a harbinger of new legislative strategies to come, in which the anti-immigrant movement and their GOP partners abandon obstructionism and adopt a savvier, more practical legislative strategy that may bring them one step closer to their anti-immigrant goals.
Photo source: Vox