In one direction is the large contingent of GOPers who, no matter the short-term political damage (the failure of the GOP’s immigration wedge strategy in recent elections) or the longer-term stupidity of anti-immigration pandering (Latino demographic and voting trends aren’t exactly a secret), remains convinced that stridently anti-immigrant rhetoric and unyielding deportation-only policies are the proper course. In the other direction is a smaller group of elected officials and conservative activists who understand both the political imperatives and practical policy necessities of changing the Party’s tone on immigration.
This week offered new evidence of the Republican split over the issue and provided new recruits for each side.
Offering support for the worn anti-immigration direction for the Party was Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ). In front a crowd of 350 people in Yuma, AZ, Senator Kyl promised that, upon comprehensive immigration reform legislation reaching the U.S. Senate floor, “Republicans will use the opportunity to filibuster.” Translation: even though he represents a state in desperate need of reforming the broken immigration system, AND, no matter that the legislation is modeled largely after his own 2007 bill, the second-ranking R in the Senate is proclaiming that the political benefits of stopping a bipartisan initiative supported by the President is more important than solving one of his state’s key problems. Kyl’s remarks come in the midst of a high-profile primary fight in Arizona between Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and challenger J.D. Hayworth, in which immigration is a hot topic and key dividing line between the candidates.