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Dear Republicans: When You're in a Hole, Stop Digging

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Following is a column by Maribel Hastings, Senior Advisor at America’s Voice, translated from Spanish to English.  The article is available for reprint as long as the author is given proper credit.

From coast to coast this past weekend, thousands of people turned out for 183 events in 40 states, calling on the House of Representatives to bring immigration reform with a path to citizenship to the floor. This week, thousands more will converge on the nation’s capital with the same request.

Even in the midst of a budget fight that has culminated in a shutdown of the federal government, activists and immigrants are keeping their foot to the gas pedal—even as many consider their efforts to be more like a tree falling in an empty forest.

It’s premature to write immigration reform’s obituary. The issue continues to represent a good political opportunity for both parties—especially Republicans—to demonstrate they’re capable of legislating and addressing the most pressing issues for the country. And that’s especially true in this climate of inaction and partisanship.

The federal shutdown embodies Congress’ dysfunctionality: its inability to share power, the cheap politicking of legislators who are in constant campaign mode, the inability of those same legislators to deliver on the promises they made during those same campaigns.

According to polls, the shutdown, and the Congressional temper tantrums that led to it, have resulted in Congress’ lowest approval ratings in recent memory. The fault belongs to both parties, but the American people are assigning more blame to Republicans—and that’s no coincidence.

The spectacle House Republicans are presenting is a disturbing one. Some thirty extremist congressmen are holding the rest of their caucus hostage, insisting on closing the government until they get a chance to renegotiate the health-care law passed in 2010, or “Obamacare”—which they want to repeal at all costs.

Criticism of this excessive and intransigent strategy has come even from some Republicans, legislators and strategists alike. They’re concerned about the way the party is going and by a Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who has allowed an extremist minority of his caucus to drown the others out.

Their concern is valid. A new series of polls from Public Policy Polling, commissioned by MoveOn.org Political Action, found that the public’s anger over the government shutdown could cost Republicans control of the House.

Democrats need to win 17 seats to regain a House majority (the chamber currently seats 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats). The poll found that in 17 competitive districts, incumbent Republicans could lose their seats. In an additional four districts, incumbent Republicans lost the support of a majority of voters after voters were told that their representative supported the government shutdown.

The group of extremist Republicans driving the House caucus now is the same one that has controlled the party’s messaging and strategy on immigration for years.

Now that their image is damaged as a result of the fiscal mess, immigration reform offers a road to rehabilitation that Republicans would be fools to waste.

There is a majority of votes to pass a resolution to fund the budget that is clean of conditions related to Obamacare, just like there is a simple 218-vote majority in the House to pass immigration reform. The bill introduced by Democrats last week could serve as a starting point.

Both parties need some sort of legislative accomplishment to show the American people before the 2014 midterm elections.

As thousands of Americans from all walks of life demanded over the weekend, it’s time for the House to set aside the circus of the permanent campaign and allow a debate, and a vote, on immigration reform. It would pass. A majority of the votes would come from Democrats, but a few would come from the small group of Republicans who are interested in lifting their party out of the hole it keeps digging itself deeper into, with Boehner in the lead and the extremists holding the shovel.