Commentary: Republicans Get Played In Immigration Debate


By Abdul Hakim-Shabazz


In this past week’s debate over immigration the president played the GOP opposition like a Stradivarius violin, which is surprising following the recent mid-term election results.

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org.

In a nutshell, the president’s plan gives legal status (not citizenship or permanent residence) to about 5 million undocumented immigrants. They have to have kids who are American citizens and have been here for at least five years. It also steps up border enforcement. It allows more opportunities for undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children to stay and it takes step to address our high-skilled worker shortage by allowing more immigrants with certain skills to get in to the country quicker.

Republicans are up in arms over this. Between the wailing, weeping and gnashing of teeth, they are threatening lawsuits, promising to withhold funding and missing what just really happened. The president just scored a major win by putting his party on a path to future victories with the children of those impacted by the law.

Why do the kids matter?

You see, those kids are already citizens; it’s their parents who are undocumented. According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than half the undocumented immigrants who are in the country came here after 1995, about 6.7 million of the 11.4 million. And about 80 percent of those folks are 44 and under, which means they either have kids or can produce some. And some of them already have. According to the research about 7 percent of our K-12 student population has an undocumented parent. For example, in Nevada alone, about 17 percent of public school kids have a an undocumented parent.

And guess what those kids can do in a few years? They can vote.

That’s right.

Because those kids who were born here, they’re citizens and will be able to vote in a few years. And not only will those kids will be voting in a few years but the demographics show they are growing fastest in a lot of places that went really red a few Tuesdays ago. Do you see what’s happening here? Even if the GOP manages to stop the president’s plan, which I doubt they legally can, Obama still looks like the hero to these kids and Democrats will get the benefit of their votes.

This is why Republicans need to drop the rhetoric and unrealistic solutions and come up with a thoughtful, comprehensive plan to deal with the immigration issue. It’s easy to jump up and say “secure the border”, but no one can tell me exactly what that means. I could make a case the border is a lot more secure than it was a decade ago. Since taking office, the president has deported more than 2 million immigrants. The percentage of Mexican-born undocumented immigrants has dropped. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, the Mexican unauthorized immigration population, which rose from 2.9 percent in 1995 to 6.9 percent in 2006 is actually down this year to 5.9 percent. The reasons are: more deportations, a sluggish economy and a more secure border.

So with that said, if Republicans are smart (and they are, even if they do just get unnecessarily worked up a lot of times) they will offer up their own alternative plan real fast real quick.     Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart has been pushing comprehensive immigration reform and warning his colleagues not to take the rhetorical bait the president put out this week.

The smart thing for the GOP would be to listen to members like Diaz-Balart. Otherwise, they’ll get played again, again and again. And like we say in my old neighborhood, when you only focus on the player, you are well on your way to losing the game.

Abdul is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at