MSNBC's Reid Fumes: Republicans 'Don't Want to Add More Brown People' to the United States

Appearing on Thursday’s Now with Alex Wagner, MSNBC contributor Joy Reid accused Republicans of racial motivations in their opposition to the Senate immigration bill, claiming GOP lawmakers “don’t want to add more brown people to the population.” She also compared a legalization option – which some Republicans support – to “indentured servitude.”

Reid, a frequent guest on the Lean Forward network – and editor of left-leaning, NBC-owned TheGrio.com – felt what host Alex Wagner suggested was “indignation” at GOP opposition to the Senate’s version of immigration reform. She then launched a tirade against Republicans that characterized their support of legal resident status for illegal immigrants, but not citizenship, as “a very ugly, sort of, ethnic argument”:

Didn't we do this before? Wasn't it called indentured servitude? Where you come, and you pay all this money out, you’re not a citizen, but you're legally allowed to work on the farm? This sounds like indentured servitude, is what they want. Because, what Josh said, what Republicans are afraid of is they don't want to make these folks citizens because they don't think they'll vote for them in – 13 years from now, they don’t think they can get there. But it is also a very ugly, sort of, ethnic argument, that they don't want to add more brown people to the population of the United States underlying this argument.

Wagner threw fuel on the fire, mockingly suggesting that Republicans only want immigration reform to help their electoral prospects with Latinos:

And this whole thing [immigration reform] is sort of a good will effort to make inroads with brown people. I'm not sure that saying, hey, you can be here but you're not going to be actually a citizen really works.

For his part, Business Insider’s Josh Barro took a more moderate stance, seeing some element of compromise in a legalization proposal:

It is not what immigration reform advocates want, it’s not the perfect thing, but it would be a lot better than making people live in the shadows. And under the comprehensive bill in the Senate, nobody would be made a citizen until 2026 anyway. That gives you 13 years to try to get a path to citizenship later.

But Barro’s non-partisanship would not stand unchallenged on Wagner’s left-wing panel, as the host and Reid teamed up minutes later to blast Republicans again:

REID: Isn't that [GOP opposition to citizenship] premised on the idea that these 11 million people are going to all come in and immediately sign up for the dole? This whole premise is so racially ugly. The Heritage Foundation studies say these are just a bunch of deadbeats –

WAGNER: If you look at the CBO – the CBO analysis of the Senate bill says it helps the economy. Raising billions of dollars.

REID: Exactly.

Barro again challenged the liberal panelists, asserting that a pathway to citizenship may increase entitlement spending since “people with relatively low incomes get more out of those programs than they pay in.”

Wagner didn’t seem to have a retort to Barro’s claim, so she resorted to garden-variety, puerile mockey of Paul Ryan’s inability to control the “crazy people, raucous Republicans” on immigration, assuring that no sustained defense of conservatives could survive on her liberal haven of a program.

See the full transcript below:


MSNBC
Now with Alex Wagner
July 11, 2013
12:15 p.m. Eastern

ALEX WAGNER: Going back to your piece, Josh, to some degree I thought of it as making lemonade from lemons. You argue that – look, a, it is better than nothing. Right? But, b, that the path to legalization ultimately could end up in a path to citizenship later on.

JOSH BARRO: Right. I think, sort of, when people have been gaming out the immigration bill, they sort of assume that there are two possible outcomes. Either the House passes something substantially similar to Senate bill, or it passes nothing. And both of those are political disasters for Republicans. If they just adopt the Senate bill, they’re going to infuriate their base. Members of the House really don’t want a large bloc of new Latino voters who they expect to largely vote Democratic. On the other hand, if they do nothing then they're going to anger Latino voters who already exist, and they're going to anger business constituencies that support the Republican Party and immigration reform.

I think that may spur the House to try to come up with something that's more amenable to conservatives, but looks reasonably comprehensive. The way you would do that is by having a bill that would have various provisions, including legalization of immigrants, but wouldn't have a path to citizenship. It could be modeled on the amendment that Rand Paul offered in the Senate, where it was no new path to citizenship. Basically his idea was, if are you here, you can stay here legally, you can work, and you can pursue citizenship through already existing –

WAGNER: And you have to pay taxes and you will not get a chance to vote. I mean –

BARRO: It is not what immigration reform advocates want, it’s not the perfect thing, but it would be a lot better than making people live in the shadows. And under the comprehensive bill in the Senate, nobody would be made a citizen until 2026 anyway. That gives you 13 years to try to get a path to citizenship later.

WAGNER [laughing]: Joy, the indignation vibes are – I can feel them.

JOY REID [laughing]: Didn't we do this before? Wasn't it called indentured servitude? Where you come, and you pay all this money out, you’re not a citizen, but you're legally allowed to work on the farm? This sounds like indentured servitude, is what they want. Because, what Josh said, what Republicans are afraid of is they don't want to make these folks citizens because they don't think they'll vote for them in – 13 years from now, they don’t think they can get there. But it is also a very ugly, sort of, ethnic argument, that they don't want to add more brown people to the population of the United States underlying this argument.

WAGNER: And this whole thing is sort of a good will effort to make inroads with brown people. I'm not sure that saying, hey, you can be here but you're not going to be actually a citizen really works. The other thing, Kurt, this is unbelievable to me – is the Republicans are out in the open arguing, we can't let these people in because they're going to be Democrats. As if citizenship should be contingent upon your voting record.

KURT ANDERSEN: Yeah. Well, of course. However, if there were 11 million people who were about to vote Republican, the Democrats would – politics is what it is. What I find amazing is that when you have these true blue, right-wing leaders of the House and Senate – Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan, who are to the left of the tail that is wagging the dog in the House, it's just extraordinary where the center of the conversation has moved.

(...)

REID: Isn't that [GOP opposition to citizenship] premised on the idea that these 11 million people are going to all come in and immediately sign up for the dole? This whole premise is so racially ugly. The Heritage Foundation studies say these are just a bunch of deadbeats –

WAGNER: If you look at the CBO – the CBO analysis of the Senate bill says it helps the economy. Raising billions of dollars.

REID: Exactly.

BARRO: This isn't just about the dole, though. This is about middle class entitlements, people who collect Medicare and Social Security. It’s not necessarily –

REID: But they pay for it!

WAGNER: They pay taxes!

BARRO: But people with relatively low incomes get more out of those programs than they pay in. And I think there are good and just reasons for that, but that's also a reason to worry about the sustainability of those programs as the income levels –

WAGNER: Okay, so this goes to the larger debate about whether or not we are in a crisis with earned benefit programs. I do want to say, Joy, and I'm curious to get your analysis of this. Paul Ryan – you sense that he knows that they are marching down a bad, path and that he is trying to sort of being the guy, the dude with his head screwed on in a room full – I won't say crazy people, raucous Republicans. And we get the read-out from the meeting yesterday and Paul Ryan is still trying to push his party forward. I understand that it is not dead yet and I understand that the plan is to have piecemeal legislation. I am hugely skeptical that Paul Ryan is going to be able to help shepherd the Republican caucus, given the weakness of Speaker Boehner on any kind of legislation whatsoever.

REID:  Exactly. And I think one of the problems the Republican Party has right now is a lack of credible leadership, people that they'll listen to. Nobody listens to John Boehner. So he’s, like, off the table. They just tell him what to do in the House. Paul Ryan was half of the ticket that just lost the election. I think he has a lot less credibility, a lot less clout, a lot less sway now. He's post-voucher. There’s a lot of things that have weighed him down and brought him down to earth. And then they’ve got John McCain in the Senate. They’re not going to listen to him. They already disliked him from the '08 campaign. They felt he lost the election, didn't do enough to go after Obama, didn’t go after the birther thing. There are so many incentives politically for Republicans in the House to behave this way. To behave as the raucous caucus, and to do things that harm their party nationally, because they just don't care. In their districts this doesn't matter.