Since the 2012 election results rolled in, it’s been hard to keep track of all the momentum behind real immigration reform. The immediate post-election developments included supportive comments from Republican Senators for real reform, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC) and Rand Paul (KY), and the surprising backing of earned citizenship from Fox News television and radio host, Sean Hannity. Yet the hits just keep on coming – just over the past week, we have seen continued support for reform from surprising sources and positive developments from the state and national perspectives alike:
- At a forum hosted by the Harvard University Institute of Politics Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s campaign manager, admitted that the campaign’s decision to move to the hard right on immigration during the GOP primary was a political mistake. As Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times writes, “When asked directly whether Mr. Romney regretted tacking to the right on immigration to appeal to conservative primary voters, the room fell silent…after pausing for several seconds, Mr. Rhoades said, ‘I regret that.’ He went on to explain that the campaign, in hindsight, had been too worried about a potential threat from Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.” Rhoades went on to add, “In retrospect, I believe that we could have probably just beaten Governor Perry with the Social Security hit.” [And, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) said on MSNBC that 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee and current Rep. Paul Ryan told him “Luis, I want to do it because it’s the right thing. I don’t want to deal with it from a political point of view.”]
- Former Republican U.S. Senator and presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, told Politico, “I think the fact that we send some of those people back and don’t give them the opportunity to participate here is wrong…I think we need to look at a simple fact: We are not having enough children to replace ourselves. Our country is not growing in population simply by the people that are here.”
- Former Republican President George W. Bush re-iterated his support for immigration reform, stating: “America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time…As our nation debates the proper course of action relating to immigration, I hope we do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the contributions of immigrants.”
Leaders from across spectrum call for citizenship for 11 million immigrants.
- A new national bipartisan coalition of religious, business and law-enforcement leaders met in Washington this week to call on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million Americans in waiting who don’t have papers. Brad Bailey, a former member of the Republican Party of Texas Platform committee, joined the chorus of leaders from both sides of the aisle asking for reform: “I never thought I’d be asking for hope and change..But I hope and pray Congress will take this because change is what needs to happen.” Echoed Mark Shutleff, Republican Utah Attorney General, “We have been pandering…to a small minority of our party…Now is the time to get this done.”
- At a conference convened by United We Dream last weekend, one of the leading organizations created of, by, and for DREAMers, the organization’s members made it clear that they are fighting not only for a path to full citizenship for themselves, but also for their parents, neighbors, and friends. As UWD Managing Director Cristina Jimenez said, “We have an unprecedented opportunity to engage our parents, our cousins, our abuelitos in this fight.” She was joined by DREAM leader Lorella Praeli who asked Republicans, “Do you want your party to see the inside of the White House again? The Republican Party alienated Latino voters in ways they hadn’t done before…Our leverage is that our community is growing.”
Political commentators show that the moment for immigration reform is upon us—Americans support it. Democrats promised it. And Republicans need it.
- Ronald Brownstein, Editorial Director at National Journal, writes: “GOP reformers convincingly argue that the party is better off embracing reform that would at least ‘take the issue off the table’ and allow Republicans to engage Hispanics on other fronts…Immigration reform probably wouldn’t be sufficient to significantly improve the GOP’s standing with Hispanics. But it’s a necessary first step. And every journey begins with that.”
- On Morning Joe, former aide to Republican President George W, Bush, Mark McKinnon said that the looming demographic cliff is finally leading Republicans to engage on this issue: “I’m very encouraged about the prospects for immigration reform. I think one of the good things about Republicans losing is it’s forcing them to the table on immigration reform.”
- In a post entitled, “Why the GOP needs Jeb — right now,” Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post writes: “There is no more pressing electoral problem for Republicans than the party’s seeming inability to make any real inroads in the Hispanic community. Republicans have to show that they are more than the party of self-deportation and border fences, and the best way to do that is to show up in Hispanic communities with GOP politicians who get that. Bush won nearly half of the Hispanic vote in his 1998 reelection governor, a rare instance of a Republican showing strength in that community. Imagine Bush, Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval doing a series of immigration events in Latino-areas around the country. It would draw huge amounts of press attention and maybe, just maybe, convince some Latino voters to give Republicans a second look.”
And at the state level, a new sentiment on immigration reform is emerging that is directly at odds with the “papers, please” approach from the recent past.
- Arizona: A new coalition of national and local leaders in Arizona, called the “Real Arizona Coalition,” introduced a new immigration reform framework this week, specifically designed to target enforcement-only legislation, like S.B 1070. According to the Arizona Republic: “Dubbed the Solution to Federal Immigration Reform, or SANE, the plan calls for continuing to strengthen border security and focus on immigration enforcement but also letting illegal immigrants earn legal status and revamping the nation’s visa system so immigrants can come legally to fill labor demands.”
- North Carolina: The Charlotte Observer reports that a special state House panel on immigration was brought to a quick close yesterday without providing any major legislative direction, instead recommending that lawmakers enact a resolution in the next session “urging the state’s congressional delegation to revise federal immigration laws and enforce security along its borders. The Observer states that the fact that the panel did not take matters into its own hands by recommending state-level legislation shows that they are “reticent to follow the lead of other states by cracking down on illegal immigrants.”
- Wisconsin: Similarly, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker walked back from his previous pro-SB 1070 stances and told reporters that an immigration law “would be a huge distraction for us in the state… I don’t think that falls into one of those priorities, so I would certainly hope that the legislature didn’t spend time focusing on that, instead focused on the economy.”