Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). Photo by musicFIRSTcoalition.
The official Republican response to the State of the Union address may have been delivered by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), but the immigration response came from Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn who fired off an editorial questioning the President’s commitment to border security and immigration reform. While the Administration has certainly heard Sen. Cornyn’s accusations before, his mixed messaging on border security and reform efforts seem indicative of a larger Republican problem—one in which words don’t quite match up with deeds.
Despite the fact that President Obama articulated the need to “take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration,” requesting that Congress make a bi-partisan effort to protect our borders, enforce our laws, address the millions of undocumented workers in the U.S. and stop deporting talented youth, Sen. Cornyn argued that the President has “never seriously engaged Congress on immigration reform.” Nor is the Senator “optimistic about a credible immigration reform proposal coming from this White House” this year.
Which begs the question—what exactly is a “credible immigration reform proposal” in Republican eyes? Was the proposal offered by Sens. Menendez, Schumer, and Gutierrez not credible? Was the DREAM Act proposal that the Senate failed to pass last fall also unacceptable? Why must the proposal come from the White House and not Congress?
Democrats have expended resources more on border security in the past few years, including engineering a $600 million boost to southwest border funding. Perhaps that’s why Senator Cornyn sent a mixed message about progress on border security. He wrote:
In the last fiscal year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection saw an increase in apprehensions of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Syria, and Yemen. They detained more than a dozen each from Iran and Iraq. Some of these nations harbor terrorists. Washington’s failure to secure our border puts local residents at risk and jeopardizes national security.
So which is it? Is the Obama administration failing to secure the border or are they making progress? Either way, the Senator’s editorial doesn’t really signal what he is for or how he hopes to move forward on other aspects of reform. Ironically, when he does talk comprehensive reform, he sounds quite a bit like the President he is criticizing:
Despite the challenges, immigration reform remains a federal responsibility and a national imperative. We must find a credible and compassionate solution to the 12 million illegal immigrants living in this country. We must address the millions who come here legally but overstay their visas. We must honor those who have played by the rules of our broken system.
Actions speak louder than words for both parties, and particularly for Senator Cornyn who has repeatedly voted against genuine immigration reform, including the DREAM Act. Rather than continue to point fingers, Republicans and conservative Democrats need to take the President up on his offer to make this the year that we all agree to start fixing the broken immigration system. There are plenty of “what if’s” and “should haves” to go around for the 111th Congress, but now that Republicans control the House, they will have to start shouldering both the responsibility and the blame for our broken system. Senator Cornyn can choose to point fingers or roll up his sleeves. For the sake of the country, let’s hope he chooses the latter.