At the mercy of the extreme right

Some members of the House of Representatives are developing their own immigration reform proposals that are threatening to shift the overhaul to the far right.

Back in March, a bipartisan group known as the House Gang of Eight announced that they would introduce a bill to overhaul the immigration system.

Now Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, one of the Republican members of the gang, decided to quit the group and work on his own bill. He wants to require immigrants on the path to citizenship to buy medical insurance as mandated by the health care reform, without the benefit of subsidies. Labrador plans to work with his GOP colleagues on the Judiciary Committee.

Three Republicans—Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, and John Carter and Sam Johnson of Texas—remained in the group, and promised to keep working on a comprehensive bill. However, they’ll have to compete against their GOP colleagues to obtain the votes needed to pass the bipartisan bill.

These three lawmakers represent states with large groups of Latino voters, and they understand what double-crossing the community can do to their jobs. Labrador, a Latino (like Diaz-Balart), represents a state where the Latino community has significant voting power, specifically in his area, Idaho’s First Congressional District. With more than 60,000 eligible Latino voters, Labrador needs to watch his back if he lets the overhaul take a turn to the right.

This divide-and-conquer tactic can have serious repercussions. It may end up derailing immigration reform—or at least that’s what some lawmakers and extremist groups want.

For the Obama administration, as well as Democrats and Republicans, it is important to pass immigration reform. What they must give the public and the millions of immigrants who are waiting is an actual overhaul—not 2,000 pages that detail how little they care about making immigrants a part of society and how they plan to exploit them financially to please a minority.

The U.S. government is serious about not negotiating with kidnappers. Today, a group of senators and representatives have kidnapped the conversation, the process and the vision leading to comprehensive immigration reform.

Advocates of a comprehensive overhaul and the public must unite and put pressure on elected officials, since some lawmakers are attempting to sabotage what must be a sensible and humane policy.