On a June afternoon in 2007, U.S. Senator John Cornyn sounded eminently reasonable. In a floor speech, the rangy, snow-haired Texan said that of all the legislative issues he’d wrangled with during his four years in the Senate, immigration reform had produced the most controversy. “Passion,” he avowed, “can produce more heat than light, but what we need is some light and some clear thinking and some better solutions to our broken borders and our broken immigration system.”
Less than two hours before, Cornyn had voted against a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the fruit of months of bipartisan negotiations and a Hail Mary attempt to salvage President George W. Bush’s otherwise disastrous second term. The measure died by a tally of 46-53.
Frank Sharry, a long-time immigration reform advocate, had decamped with allies to a bar near the Capitol to mourn the bill’s defeat. When the senator from Texas appeared on a television screen, Sharry’s blood pressure rose. “We’re sitting there just heartbroken; this was probably the last chance we would have for reform for many, many years,” said Sharry, now director of the pro-immigrant nonprofit America’s Voice. “And who takes to the floor? John Cornyn, to give a 15-minute speech on the need for immigration reform. I swear to God, if I could have reached through the TV and throttled the motherfucker, I would have.”
If that reaction seems a tad trenchant, consider that Cornyn’s 2007 vote was part of a pattern. Throughout the years, the Houston-native claimed to be open to comprehensive immigration reform. When Cornyn took over the Senate’s immigration subcommittee in 2005, he wrote: “We must address the need for better border security … while acknowledging the important contributions that immigrants make to our economy.” The anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform bemoaned his ascension to chairman, while pro-immigrant organization the National Immigration Forum saw it as “a hopeful sign.”
By Gus Bova for OBSERVER
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