Republicans won’t pass immigration reform

The New York Times reports that House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is considered “the best hope” to win passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in Congress after he becomes majority leader in July. It’s sort of quaint how the Gray Lady wants to believe in miracles.

If a comprehensive bill — such as the Senate bill that set a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants — had a chance of passing, then it was in 2009 and 2010, when Democrats controlled the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. President Barack Obama had promised a bill in his first year in office. If Democrats wouldn’t deliver when they owned Washington, Republicans have little reason to do their heavy lifting.

The timing for advocates could not be worse — and not just because the current House majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, lost his primary election bid after his GOP opponent hit him for supporting a comprehensive immigration bill.

This year, thousands of unaccompanied minors and mothers with young children have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with the expectation that they will be allowed to stay. Some blame Obama’s policy to not deport undocumented immigrants who came here illegally when they were children. The White House blames a “misinformation” campaign by opportunistic human smugglers. Either way, the situation is so dire that Democrats are calling the new influx a “humanitarian crisis” that requires a quick and dramatic response.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, told the Houston Chronicle last week that he believes that the administration has to allow more deportations — and quickly. Also, Hillary Clinton told CNN last week, “They should be sent back.” That’s how ugly the border is.

McCarthy is a true son of Bakersfield, California. Rather than become a creature of Washington, he sleeps in his Capitol Hill office and flies home every weekend. He hears from the Republican base, which opposes amnesty. He was true to that base in 2008, when he was chairman for the Republican National Committee platform, which threatened financial penalties for sanctuary cities.

McCarthy also hears from employers who depend on immigrant labor and California Republicans eager to court Latino voters. Last year, he met with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles after these advocates occupied his Bakersfield office.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Chris Wallace pressed McCarthy on whether he’ll support a comprehensive immigration reform bill. McCarthy is on record for supporting a path to legalization, but he told Wallace: “I don’t believe there should be citizenship. I believe in the rule of law.” At the moment, he added, the border is not secure because the government is not enforcing the law.

The forces of idealism are experiencing the blunt trauma of reality. The promise of a path to legalization, coupled with lax law enforcement, has produced unintended, if inevitable, consequences. If there was any doubt that changing the law might result in waves of more illegal immigration, the answer should be clear.

Quoth McCarthy: Until the border is secure, “you can’t have an immigration debate.”

Email Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@sfchronicle.com

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