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Commentators: Immigration Reform is "Unavoidable" for Republicans, and 2014 is the Time for Action

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The House GOP’s principles on immigration reform are out, but apparently they’re still trying to decide whether to tackle immigration reform this year — or save it for 2015 or 2017.  Greg Sargent and Matt Lewis have already published pieces on why Republicans should just pass reform this year, if they’re smart.  Kevin Drum at Mother Jones (in a post entitled, “For Republicans, Immigration Reform is Unavoidable”) has more about why 2014 just makes sense for Republicans and immigration reform:

In the simplest sense, then, this is an issue of timing. At some point, Republicans will have to bite the bullet and do this. They just can’t keep losing the Hispanic vote 70-30 and expect to ever win the presidency again. It’s a simple question of brute numbers. The question is how long they can hold out.

My own guess is that now is just about as good as it’s going to get for Republicans. With a House majority, they have a fair amount of leverage to get the kind of bill they can live with. In fact, if they play their cards right, they might end up with a bill that fractures Democrats even more than Republicans. But what if they wait? Passing a bill is hopeless in 2015, with primary season for the presidential election so close. It’s possible that Republicans will be better off in 2017, but that’s a long shot. Democrats are certain to do well in that year’s Senate races, and are probably modest favorites to win the presidency again. Republicans would have less leverage than ever if that happens.

And even if the long shot pays off, what good would it do them? Immigration reform of the kind that would pass muster with the tea party base wouldn’t do the GOP any good. In fact, it would probably give Democrats an opening to get Hispanic voters even more riled up. What Republicans desperately need is a bill that (a) is liberal enough to satisfy the Hispanic community, but (b) can be blamed on Democrats and a few turncoat moderate Republicans in November…

If Republicans are smart, they’ll get this monkey off their backs now, when it won’t do them too much harm in the midterms but will give them time to start mending fences with Hispanics in time for 2016. Unfortunately, smart is in short supply these days.

Marc Ambinder at the Week agrees.  The lack of immigration reform is hurting Republicans every day that they fail to resolve it.  They already spent all of last year dithering.  And look at how many times Steve King managed to open his mouth during that void (cantaloupes, anyone?).  As Ambinder explains:

(3) Every cycle that passes by without immigration reform is a cycle that is one more removed from the day when Republicans will begin to rebuild a new political coalition that includes more Latinos.

(4) Completely aside from the merits of immigration reform, Democrats will wield the failure to pass immigration reform as a meat cleaver, and effectively so, to bash the GOP’s intentions not only to Latinos but also to young voters and upscale professionals who otherwise admire Republican principles.

(5) The year the GOP helps to pass immigration reform is the year that Republicans take away this weapon from Democrats. If Democrats lack this weapon, Republicans can begin to appeal to Latinos on their own terms.

Currently, House Republicans are back to using President Obama and their distrust of him as an excuse not to pass reform.  We’ve pointed out how ridiculous that is, that they’re accusing a president who’s deported nearly 2 million people of not being harsh enough on enforcement.  Spanish-language media certainly sees through the GOP charade.  And at Slate today, Dave Weigel points out the GOP argument’s chronological flaws.  Immigration reform is a multi-decade process, while Obama is out of office in three years:

The Obama-won’t-obey-the-law theory has always been a sort of chimera when it comes to talk of immigration reform. Say the Senate bill was passed in the House tomorrow, conferenced, and signed by the president. He’s got three years left in office. The legalization component of the Senate bill depends on a border security standard that’s going to be determined by a panel of state governors. They have five years to sign off. If you think about the timing of the Affordable Care Act—passed in 2010, implemented at the end of 2013—there’s no real danger of Obama using a new immigration law to grant more amnesty. He could do that right now.

So, file these talking points under “Republicans Looking Busy.”