Immigration reform is likely to pass Congress next year, says Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, and he says doing so is vital for the GOP to have a chance to win the presidency in 2016.
Flake said Wednesday on Fox News Channel's "Special Report"
that he had expected a comprehensive immigration bill to pass this year, but those hopes were dashed after the primary election defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Cantor's loss to tea party challenger Dave Brat was the "death knell" for immigration reform in the current session, Flake said. Radio talk show hosts Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin swayed voters in the last two weeks of the election, saying Cantor's position on immigration was "pro-amnesty."
With the current crisis of thousands of children flooding across the border from Central America, there is "no chance" of passing a bill this year, Flake said.
Republicans have said the current influx of illegal border crossings prove that President Barack Obama wasn't truthful when said in 2010 that the border was more secure than ever. His statement was seen as intended to be a pretext for passing a comprehensive immigration bill.
Still, Flake told Fox News that he thinks a bill could pass in 2015.
"I'm among those who think if Republicans want a shot at national office, we've got to deal with this in a responsible way," he said. The purpose, he added, is not just to appeal to Hispanic voters, but to appeal to Americans who expect Republicans to be rational, reasonable and responsible.
"I don't think we have been," he said.
Flake thinks the solution to the current crisis is to change the 2008 law that prohibits quick deportation of children from non-border countries. The unaccompanied minors flooding the border are primarily from three Central American countries plagued with high poverty and crime.
Republicans argue that the crime and poverty, while a real issue in those countries, have not significantly increased in the past few years. Instead, they say, the influx of children has been caused by a 2012 executive order by President Barack Obama that gave hope that the children would be granted some form of legal status.
"As soon as we actually take a planeload of children and go back to Guatemala and El Salvador and Honduras, that's what will stop it," Flake told Fox News. "When a parent or relative in those countries who just paid . . . up to $7,000 to a smuggler to take that child into the country, when they see those planeloads of the kids coming back, it will stop."
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