We all know that didn't happen then. Can it happen now?
It might be an exaggeration to say that a civil war has broken up amongst Republicans about pushing ahead for reform, but there are undoubtedly divisions within the party on how to address the issue. But the energy still seems with the Tea Party/Lamar Smith/Tom Tancredo wing of the GOP, which is that any pathway to citizenship is "amnesty" and should be taken off the table.
On ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan said that though the GOP might be split on some aspects of reform, one thing they are united on is that they have no faith that President Obama will enforce the law.
RYAN: Well, look, we don't know who's coming and going in this country, George. We don't have control of our border. We don't have control of interior enforcement. You just talked about the Boston bombers. And so doing nothing on the security side of this, we think, is not a responsible thing to do. It's appropriate you brought this subject up after talking about these executive orders.
Here's the issue that all Republicans agree on — we don't trust the president to enforce the law. So if you actually look at the standards that the Republican leadership put out, which is security first, first we have to secure the border, have interior enforcement, which is a worker verification system, a visa tracking program. Those things have to be in law, in practice and independently verified before the rest of the law can occur.
So it's a security force first, non-amnesty approach.
The momentum seems to be against Republicans doing much, though. The argument to keep the status quo as it is (where we don't who's coming into the country) was articulated in Sunday's New York Times by columnist Ross Douthat.
Douthat says the issue is problematic politically for Republicans, because he says (like others have) that there's no real upside for the GOP, if the idea is to have more Hispanics warm up the them. Douthat cites a recent Pew Research Poll that ranked "dealing with illegal immigration" only 16th most important out of 20 different policy measures.
Douthat writes that the issue is definitely more win-win for Democrats:
So immigration policy is problematic on the merits — and then it’s politically problematic for Republicans as well. Immigration ranks 16th on the public’s list of priorities, according to the latest Pew numbers, so it’s difficult to see how making this the signature example of a new, solutions-oriented G.O.P. is going to help the party in the near term. Whereas it’s much easier to see how it helps the Democrats: if a bill passes, it will do so with heavy Democratic support, hand President Obama a policy victory at a time when he looks like a lame duck, and demoralize the right along the way.
Another highlight of Ryan's interview on ABC was the discussion about Pope Francis. In late December took a slap at the exalted Pontiff, telling the Milwaukee Journal that while he was happy to see him weigh in on income inequality, the Pope really didn't understand capitalism. He said, "The guy is from Argentina. They haven't had real capitalism in Argentina."
Ryan refused to back down on that comment, but praised Francis for talking about "the welfare state and how we have to avoid creating a welfare state."
Stephanopoulos then interjected, asking did he really believe he'd endorse Ryan's controversial budget proposals that have been blasted by Catholic leaders in the states.
"Of course not," Ryan responded. "I don't think — he's a pope. Pope's don't endorse budgets."