Mary Sanchez: Immigration reform is an imperative, not a stage for Ted Cruz

Mary SanchezThe Kansas City Star

Just as the ill-conceived crusade to defund Obamacare peters out comes word of another Republican foofaraw in the making. Tea party zealots are gearing up to make a grand stand against immigration reform.

Here is my humble request: Please, God, do not make us withstand another bogus filibuster by Sen. Ted Cruz, unless this time he promises to read "Huevos Verdes con Jamon" to all the little anchor babies whose parents he wants to deport.

Obama set the stage for the next battle royal even as Congress was holding hearings on the bungled rollout of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance website. "We should pass immigration reform," he told the White House press corps. "And we should do it this year."

There he was again -- Obama the dreamer.

Immigration reform is not going to pass through the House in the next two months -- and is unlikely to get anywhere during this session. The Senate's bipartisan immigration bill passed in June. However, it has already been labeled as toxic by tea party activists. They sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner in October warning that even considering the Senate's positions "would lead to disaster."

And Cruz, the boldly arrogant senator from Texas, can be expected to puff up and perform for the tea party faithful, judging by his conduct in the Obamacare/debt limit fiasco. The stage is set. He will not be able to resist.

Cruz, widely touted as a hopeful presidential candidate in 2016, is himself an immigrant. He was born across the border in a country that could until recently claim him as a dual citizen. Ay, caramba! What's a red-white-and-blue (albeit foreign-born) patriot to do?

Luckily for him, his country of birth is Canada, which, apart from its Marxist health care system, raises few hackles from U.S. nativists. Still, as an immigrant of sorts, and as the son of a Cuban immigrant to the U.S., you'd think Cruz would exhibit a more understanding view of those who come to our country and the best policies to deal with them.

Instead, he has endorsed some of the most discredited schemes for stopping illegal immigration, such as the construction of a massive physical wall at the nearly 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexican border. Stretches of wall at the border have already cost $21 million per mile. (The debt! The debt!) Never mind that, for years, experts have pointed out that other measures, such as air surveillance, would be far more cost-effective, especially if coupled with reforms that address the labor market needs that draw migrants here in the first place -- namely, aiding the legal migration of high- and low-skilled workers.

Cruz has denounced the executive branch for deferring the deportation of certain young people who were brought into the country illegally as children. He is against the Senate's 13-year pathway to citizenship for the undocumented. As all of these people can never, and will never, be deported, we must conclude either that Cruz is delusional or that he is content with the status quo. Indeed, perhaps the status quo permits opportunists like him to pander to the worst instincts in American politics.

Of course, in that respect, he is far from alone in the GOP.

Boehner is going to have his hands full keeping Cruz and his fellow tea partyers from upsetting the push for immigration reform. Look for more sterling displays of courage from Boehner in the fight ahead. He has already indicated that he doesn't favor a massive bill like the Senate has proposed but desires a more piecemeal approach to reform instead.

Yet, outside of Washington, a consensus is growing for comprehensive reform. Previously antagonistic groups have aligned behind the idea of a massive overhaul to the nation's immigration laws and procedures. That includes some influential conservative groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The U.S. immigration system is a notoriously convoluted bureaucracy, and it badly needs reform. Oddly enough, some in U.S. government are unconcerned with its problems, and they only treat the issue as a stage upon which to act out a morality play. One of these politicians is Ted Cruz, and, unfortunately, we might as well get ready for Act II of his drama.

Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Email:

Mary Sanchez