News Update - May 30, 2013
Local Politics Or The National Stage – The GOP’S Dilemma For Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
S.744, the comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) legislation championed by the Senate Gang of 8, goes to the Senate floor in June with its major provisions intact after the consideration of more than 300 amendments in May. The bill’s supporters now hope to gain at least 70 votes in the Senate to give it a major push before the House (which is soon expected to come forward with less immigrant friendly legislation) solidifies its positions. Their hopes were buoyed by the May 21st 13 – 5 vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee which included the votes of Republican lawmakers Jeff Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Orrin Hatch (UT). House Republican leaders have already indicated that they wish more emphasis on enforcement and that they are not keen on granting citizenship status to those who have violated the immigration laws.
Yet, there must be compromise and passage of legislation eventually allowing a path to citizenship. Attempting to relegate most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants to second-class status forever in the face of their anticipated tax payments and being permanently shut out of means-tested benefits and voting rights is inherently unfair. Part of the strength of the country is the idea that everyone has a fair shot to be great, and that promise is what binds most of the people instead of the divide and seething factionalization of permanent subclasses.
The battle for CIR will be mostly fought out in the House of Representatives. House leaders are already on notice that Democrats consider the path to citizenship an uncompromising principle. Republicans are playing political calculus with ideas of breaking up immigration legislation into small parts and seeking the most palatable ways to present failure of CIR as the fault of the Democrats. Yet they know that the American public, and especially the minorities, have already pinned a bull’s-eye on the Republicans as the party of hostility to immigrants. The perception will not change, regardless of the excuses put up by the Republicans – so how will all this play out?
For many of the Republican representatives, the failure of immigration legislation will work out well locally, especially as many of them were elected on anti-immigrant platforms. They can look forward to even higher approval ratings in their districts and easier reelections. The ones mainly looking at logistics may have a harder decision where ethnic minorities are becoming a larger part of their voting districts. They may be targeted by the Democrats in future elections, especially where the vote is projected to be close.
But it is in the arena of national politics and the presidential elections where a hard stance by the Republicans guarantees irrelevancy in the future. Immigration is an issue that will not go away. The growth in voting power by Hispanics, Asians, and other ethnic minorities dooms the Republicans to seats in the House and Senate and battling the Executive on selections of agency heads and federal judgeships, including Supreme Court appointments. The 2012 national election showed Hispanic voting going from 9% of the entire vote in 2008 to 10% in 2012; Asian-Americans from 2% in 2008 to 3% in 2012; whites decreasing from 74% to 72%; and blacks staying at 13%. The trend will accelerate in the future, as seen by the numbers of ethnic minority members becoming naturalized or coming of voting age. 71% of Hispanics voted for Mr. Obama with only 27% for Mr. Romney and even more impressively, Asian-Americans gave Mr. Obama 73% of the vote, as opposed to only 26% for Mr. Romney. Republicans who are expected to run in 2016 have eschewed the the Mitt Romney approach of self deportation of illegals and embraced comprehensive immigration reform. The list includes Senators Marco Rubio (Florida), Rand Paul (Kentucky), Representative Paul Ryan (Wisconsin), and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. They realize that their chances of winning would be greatly enhanced by not having to contend with the overwhelming rejection by the growing ethnic minorities of the restrictionist immigration policies which have been tied to their party.
Small town/city politics or national politics? The quandary of which goal to unite under is now facing the GOP as S. 744 heads onto the Senate floor.