Immigration Reform Declared Dead on the Day George W. Bush Will Endorse It

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After four years of near-silence, former President George W. Bush will reenter the public debate on Wednesday to declare his support for immigration reform — on exactly the same day that Washington is declaring immigration reform dead. Republicans have only won the popular vote once in six presidential elections — and that single time was when Bush won in 2004 with 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. In prepared remarks at a citizenship ceremony in at his presidential library in Dallas, NBC News reports that Bush says that "our whole nation benefits" from immigration, and that "America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society all at the same time." He adds, "I don't intend to get involved in the politics or the specific of policy, but I do hope there's a positive resolution to the debate." But right now, House Republicans think the most positive resolution to the debate is to put it on hold until after the 2014 midterm elections.

Immigration reform is marching toward a "slow death," Politico's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei report. “The belief among House Republicans is that they’re going to do well in the midterms, and that instead of negotiating now from a position of weakness, they should wait until 2015,” a Republican lobbyist told Politico. That follows what two Republican leadership aides told The New York Times in late June: "Speaker John A. Boehner has no intention of angering conservative voters and jeopardizing the House Republican majority in 2014 in the interest of courting Hispanic voters on behalf of a 2016 Republican presidential nominee who does not yet exist."

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House Republicans will hold what's expected to be an hours-long meeting on how to proceed on immigration on Wednesday, The Washington Post's Aaron Blake reports. But Boehner has already hinted that Republicans favor measures that would be a no-go for Democrats. "It’s clear from everything that I’ve seen and read over the last couple of weeks that the American people expect that we’ll have strong border security in place before we begin the process of legalizing and fixing our legal immigration system," Boehner said on Monday. Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler writes that the statement "amounts to a de facto endorsement of the conservative view that any steps to legalize existing immigrants should be contingent upon implementation of draconian border policies." Boehner also avoids mentioning "citizenship," which could mean that he won't back any kind of amnesty like in the Senate bill, which allows undocumented immigrants to work as they go through a 13-year process to become citizens.

There could be one small glimmer of hope for reform: The Washington Post's Greg Sargent says that while there's not a majority of Republicans who would vote for the bill, there might be a narrow majority that would privately support Boehner allowing the bill to pass with Democratic votes. That way, Boehner wouldn't lose his job.

Only seven House Republicans would be hurt by voting against immigration reform, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling. And 165 of them — 70 percent of the House GOP — represent districts that are 90 percent white or more. But even conservatives who don't have to get reelected in mostly-white districts have been turning against immigration reform. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal came out against the Senate bill on Tuesday. So did The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol and The National Review's Rich Lowry in a joint editorial. In January, Rush Limbaugh sighed that "I don't know that there's any stopping this," meaning immigration reform. "It's up to me and Fox News, and I don't think Fox News is that invested in this." Now it's Limbaugh who has the allies, and George W. Bush who looks like he's fighting alone.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.