Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: National immigration reforms stalled again by partisan politics

In Florida, the prospect of a re-election bid for the Republican governor brought about a miracle.

The mood of GOP leaders changed from ugly anti-immigrant tough talk and proposals aimed at closing the state’s doors to championing – and passing, despite opposition from the party’s ultra conservative wing – legislation to benefit the educational prospects of undocumented youth, the Dreamer kids, brought here by their parents.

And following a poignant Supreme Court request for remedy, the Legislature also voted to allow an undocumented, high-achieving Florida law school graduate to become a practicing lawyer. This, from a legislature that wouldn’t even let Dreamers get driver’s licenses.

But there’s no such luck with Congress, where once again immigration reform is hopelessly stalled by partisan politics.

To Florida, that means the Dreamer kids who know of no other place than this country as home – driven kids who are some of the top students in their class – could still face the prospect of deportation after President Barack Obama’s term in office ends.

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Without comprehensive immigration reform, there’s no real relief for them or for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who call the United States home and work here, helping keep vibrant many industries that would otherwise struggle if they didn’t exist.

It’s not a mystery why this is a do-nothing Congress.

Instead of exercising leadership like Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford did to pass the in-state tuition bill for Dreamers, what does Speaker John Boehner do?

Blame someone else, of course – anybody at this point will do – and make excuses.

But all Boehner has to do is call a House vote on a Senate bill passed almost a year ago – and he has only six weeks left to do it. This is a bill that earmarks billions of dollars for border security as well as set-up a stringent path to citizenship, which has to be earned.

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Why the inaction?

Cowardice, a tremendous devotion to saving his own skin, and a misguided idea that he’s helping other Republicans win mid-term elections.

Case in point: The re-election of House Majority leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican who faces a tea party opponent in the June 10 primary. To cater to this group, Cantor has mutated from pledging to introduce legislation to grant citizenship to the Dreamer youth and those serving in the military to couching his support, talking around issue or double-talking.

In other words, doing nothing – which is only another form of opposition.

But maybe Cantor and Boehner – from Ohio, the state that cinched the re-election of President Obama – should think a little harder about what their inaction means in the long run for the GOP.

The party’s on the losing end of the issue, despite the gains like in-state tuition for Florida’s children, a tremendously important achievement. Only Congress can fix what ails a federal system that keeps people living in the shadows – and here’s what we do know: The only impediment to comprehensive immigration reform is House Republicans.

They don’t act because for them, it’s not about the right thing to do; it’s not about the human beings living in limbo.

It’s about politics and personal gain.

And so a primary in Virginia becomes more important than the fate of 11 million people.

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