Speaker John Boehner at press conference

Speaker John Boehner and Whip Kevin McCarthy have suggested their support for making changes on immigration. (Credit: Zhang Jun Xinhua News Agency/Newscom)

An influential conservative news outlet is warning House Republicans to abandon their plans on immigration reform this year because President Obama cannot be trusted. The editors of National Review put it bluntly: “Do nothing.”

“This is legislative strategy as unforced error,” they wrote.

House GOP leaders are on the verge of releasing a set of immigration principles that will be the subject of debate at this week’s retreat for Republican members of Congress. In recent weeks, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have signaled their support for making changes. McCarthy came under fire for suggesting amnesty could be in the GOP’s plans.

National Review’s editors said that would be a mistake:

The basic tactical reason not to act now is that the last thing the party needs is a brutal intramural fight when it has been dealt a winning hand on Obamacare. It is not as though the public is clamoring for an immigration bill. Only 3 percent cited immigration as the biggest problem facing the country in a Gallup poll earlier this month. In the key contests that will decide partisan control of the Senate, Republican candidates are much more likely to be helped than hurt by refusing to sign onto any form of amnesty.

The other prudential reason not to act is that President Obama obviously can’t be trusted. Any immigration deal would have to trade enhanced enforcement for an amnesty. Since the president refuses to enforce key provisions of his own health-care law, let alone provisions of immigration law he finds uncongenial, he obviously can’t be relied on to follow up on his end of any bargain. It is hard to fathom how any Republican can possibly believe otherwise.

That last point is one that Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) emphasized in a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in San Antonio, according to the Daily Caller.

“The challenge with all of this is we have a hard time trusting this president in enforcing the laws,” Ryan said. “Look what he’s doing on health care and all these extra-legal things he’s doing with executive orders and executive actions that we don’t believe he has the authority to do.”

With Obama expected to lobby for a “path to citizenship” for millions of illegal immigrants  in tonight’s State of the Union address and House Republicans set to release their principles this week, amnesty proponents are clamoring for the opportunity to act.

“It’s a very big deal, and there’s a path here that could get it done,” Cecilia Munoz, the White House’s director of domestic policy, told The Washington Post.

The Heritage Foundation’s Derrick Morgan made the argument that any proposal that includes amnesty would be a step in the wrong direction. Morgan, Heritage’s vice president of domestic and economic policy, wrote in The National Interest:

An amnesty that grants legal status to only some unlawful immigrants is still an amnesty, just a smaller one. An amnesty of any size is unfair, costly, and won’t work. It is unfair to those who played by the rules and entered lawfully, as well as the millions of people currently waiting in our immigration system to be admitted legally. It is costly because even a small amnesty qualifies millions of people for overburdened government welfare and entitlement programs. It won’t work because another amnesty will signal a pattern, since lawmakers already granted amnesty in 1986.

At the time, President Ronald Reagan signed off on that plan — a mistake he later regretted, according to his attorney general, Edwin Meese III. (Meese is the Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow Emeritus at The Heritage Foundation.)

In their plea to House Republicans, National Review’s editors cited Reagan’s catchphrase — “don’t just do something, stand there” — as justification for inaction.