Republican opposition to DREAMers is irrational and ridiculous. What the heck is their problem?

SAN DIEGO — I’ve written about the immigration debate for nearly 30 years, and yet there are still things about it that I don’t understand.

Such as this: If Republicans are really so insistent that immigrants “follow the rules” in coming here, then why would so many GOP lawmakers now be aligned against the better interests of nearly 800,000 recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program that gave young immigrants short-term work permits and temporary deferment from deportation? The only way to qualify for DACA was to step forward and follow the rules, which included turning yourself in to government officials and handing over personal information. Fulfilling this last requirement makes them and their families easier to find, and still they did it.

Or this: If Republicans really care so much about respect for law and order, then why would they be so resistant to finding a reasonable accommodation for the DACA DREAMers? After all, we’re talking about people who were brought here as young children illegally, through no fault of their own and often against their will. Surely, according to the law, these people are not guilty of any crime. They may currently be out of status, or maybe they’re living here without legal documents. They hate that fact more than anyone. But where was the intent to commit wrongdoing or the desire to break the law? There isn’t one.

Or this: Why can’t a renegade group of some two dozen House Republicans just be honest about their motives? They have now joined with more than 190 Democrats in trying to persuade a majority of members to sign a “discharge petition” that would bring to the floor a bill protecting DACA recipients. While I support what this band of rogues is doing, it’s obvious why they’re doing it, and it’s not to help DREAMers. Lawmakers have had nearly 20 years to do that, dating to 2001 when the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) was first proposed to give legal status to undocumented youth. The bill died in 2010, with plenty of opposition from the GOP. Instead, the goal here is to save the long-term electoral prospects of the Republican Party in a country that becomes more diverse by the hour and where Latinos could make up nearly a third of the population by 2050. The insurgents might as well admit it.

Or this: Just who are the hard-liners in the GOP opposition pandering to? Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of Americans think that some accommodation should be worked out for DREAMers, if for no other reason than that they have nowhere else to go and this is the only country they know. In April, a Quinnipiac Poll found that 77% of Americans favored letting DREAMers stay in the United States compared with just 18% who opposed it. Among Republicans, 59% supported such a bill and 35% opposed it. Yet in the House, you still have more than 200 Republican holdouts led by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Most of them are just garden-variety cowards — eager to avoid the thorny immigration issue as well as the wrath of President Trump (who has called on Congress to pass a “bill of love” to help the DREAMers but only if he also gets billions of dollars for his big, beautiful border wall).

Some Republicans, however, actually seem ready to go to war against DREAMers. What are they thinking? Or are they doing any thinking at all? What’s the political calculus? How does this play out? Do the hard-liners really think that those relatively few Republican voters who are so mean and so petty as to want to deport DREAMers are going to punish them at the ballot box if they allow a vote on a bill to help these young people stay in this country? What a silly and needless worry.

And finally this: If Republicans aren’t just blowing smoke when they say they want more educated and more skilled immigrants who love this country, assimilate into our society, and adopt our language and customs, then how in the world can any of them line up against the DREAMers? That group checks all the boxes. As former president Barack Obama correctly noted, these young people are already full-blooded Americans — in every way but one. No matter what immigration hard-liners say, they’re not the problem. It’s more likely that they’re part of the solution.

So yes, there’s a lot that’s difficult to understand in the immigration debate and how DREAMers fit into it. Because it doesn’t make any sense.

Yet voters keep rewarding failure by re-electing these mischief-makers. That doesn’t make any sense, either.

Ruben Navarrette Jr., a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors, is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group and host of the daily podcast, Navarrette Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @RubenNavarrette.