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On Immigration, GOP Bowing to Wishes of Less than One-Fifth of Country

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With the window for legislative action on immigration rapidly closing, new polling released yesterday underscores that House Republican leadership’s opposition to reform resonates only with a small and shrinking slice of the electorate – less than one-fifth of the country.  Separate analysis of the implications of House Republicans’ refusal to deliver on popular immigration reform shows dire electoral consequences for the Republican Party, in key races in 2014 and the broader national elections in 2016.

The polling released yesterday, from Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) finds broad support for immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.  As the accompanying poll summary notes:

62% of Americans favor providing a way for immigrants who are currently living in the United States illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements, while 17% support allowing them to become permanent legal residents but not citizens, and roughly 1-in-5 (19%) favor a policy that would identify and deport all immigrants living in the United States illegally.

Yet the Republican Party seems intent to kowtow to this 19% of the electorate who support deportation-only approach.  In analysis titled, “The GOP is Steve King’s Party. Next Year it Will Be Ted Cruz’s Party,” Greg Sargent of the Washington Post captures the political dangers for the GOP in blocking reform and embracing the deportation-only crowd:

If the GOP’s refusal to act confirms that this year it is Steve King’s party, next year it very well may be Ted Cruz’s party.

The House GOP agenda for June does not include immigration reform.  While it’s always conceivable House GOP leaders could act before the August recess, the chances appear remote, and Republicans say privately that they can still act next year. But at that point we’ll need another Senate bill on top of getting something through the House, and the GOP presidential primary will be underway.  It seems safe to assume that Ted Cruz — who is expected to run — will demagogue the heck out of the issue, yanking the GOP field to the right.  This rightward lurch by the Cruz-controlled Texas GOP offers a preview of what that might look like…

…This is the guy who may have a great deal of influence over the immigration debate next year. For context, note that many possible GOP presidential contenders — such as Paul RyanRand PaulChris Christie, and Marco Rubio — have flirted with constructive positions on immigration, suggesting they think getting right on the issue is crucial for the party’s 2016 chances.  Should Cruz demagogue it in a bid for far right GOP primary voters, it could make it harder for others to stake out moderate positions — making it harder for Congressional Republicans to act, too.

It’s always possible Republicans will succeed in passing reform next year, but Ted Cruz’s demagoguery could very well make it a good deal harder.  It isn’t as if we haven’t seen this before: look what happened to the GOP’s Latino support when the party was pulled to the right on the issue last time around.  Never mind 47 percent.  Try 27 percent.  And in 2016, with the Latino share of the vote set to rise in many key swing states, Ted Cruz’s party could actually fare worse.

347 Days Since Senate Passed its Immigration Bill; 17 Days Left Until Window of Opportunity Closes