Why Immigration Reform is in Trouble

The GOP panicked after sorely losing the Latino vote in 2012 — and, oh yeah, the White House — and rushed to do a little minority outreach. Immigration reform seemed like the least of  several evils, but now, some Republicans aren’t so sure:

Despite the claim widely held among GOP leaders that the party must support more liberal immigration laws if it’s to be more competitive in presidential elections, some feisty Republications are challenging the assertion.

These doubters say the Republican establishment has the political calculation backward. Immigration “reform,” they say, will mean millions of new Democratic-leaning voters by granting citizenship to large numbers of Hispanic immigrants now living illegally in the United States.

Many conservatives “are scared to death” that the Republican Party “is committing suicide, that we’re going to end up legalizing 9 million automatic Democrat voters,” radio host Rush Limbaugh recently told Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a leader of the bipartisan team pushing an immigration overhaul.

As much as Sen. Rubio and others in his party are trying to convince their fellow GOPers that immigration reform is the smart thing to do, stories about the looming “off-white America” in which Latinos become the new whites have many Republicans feeling squeamish at the thought of providing millions of undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship.

Truth is, for all the buzz about how this is immigration’s year, how the drubbing the GOP received last fall has forced their hand in the matter, how Obama will go down in history as the healthcare reform and immigration reform president, passage of comprehensive immigration reform is still a longshot.

After Aurora and Newtown, gun control seemed inevitable — at least something as common sense as background checks and closing the gun show loopholes. But what do we have to show for all our huffing and puffing in the months since? Nada.

You could argue that this time around is different, that passing comprehensive immigration reform is in the Republican Party’s own interest, as a simple matter of electoral survival. But when have you known the present-day GOP to be so practical and forward-thinking? A lot of the current GOP, especially in the House, couldn’t care less about the survival of their party and the country than a suicide bomber cares about his own survival.

Republicans only care about the here and now. The here is that there are 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, 9 million of which came from Latin America. The now is that Latinos voted overwhelmingly for Obama and the Dems this past fall — and in record numbers, to boot (despite Romney’s Mexican heritage).

The GOP’s reluctance to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants, and the party’s track record on supporting common-sense proposals, make two very strong arguments for placing even more pressure on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.

In doing so, you can make a hefty contribution to the cause like “GOP mega-donor” Paul Singer just did. Or, if you don’t happen to have six figures laying around somewhere, you can join immigration reform advocate at this year’s May Day march on Wednesday.

But whatever you do, don’t consider reform a done deal. Because the GOP just might surprise us all.


[Photo: DonkeyHotey via Flickr]

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