tags: , , , , , Blog

On Immigration Reform, Republicans Need to Go Big or Lose Big

Share This:

Some Republicans get it.  Because of the party’s historic losses among Latino voters in the 2012 elections they are calling for the GOP to adopt a new brand image on immigration.  Some still don’t get it.  These Republicans seem to hope that they can do something that looks like immigration reform and address their demographic and political problems.

For example, just today most House Republicans voted for Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) STEM bill, legislation that would result in the elimination of an entire category of legal immigration in order to increase the number of visas for high-skilled workers.  And earlier this week, retiring Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced the ACHIEVE Act, a more restrictive alternative to the DREAM Act that notably would not provide a sure path to citizenship for qualified individuals.

These faux reform attempts just won’t cut it – especially if one of the party’s objectives is to get right with Latino voters.  Yesterday, Lionel Sosa, a Republican strategist who worked for George W. Bush and John McCain, issued these strong words for his party:

“We don’t see that the electorate is changing and we need to make changes. The longer we send out messages that Latinos take some offense to, the longer it’s going got take us to recover the Latino vote.”

He’s right.  As a new analysis this week from Latino Decisions co-founder and Stanford University professor Gary Segura makes clear, not only will immigration half-measures fail to adequately address immigration policy needs, but they also won’t solve Republicans’ political problems.  Writes Segura:

“Latinos voters are simply not going to be happy with an outcome that keeps Latino immigrants on the margins of society.  And if the GOP is identified as the key obstacle stopping a path to citizenship for Latino immigrants, the party will have accomplished little towards Sean Hannity’s goal of getting the issue behind them.  Should the GOP lead a bill with too many punitive measures, or should the bill pass with little GOP support, any electoral advantage that might come to the GOP from moving the immigration issue forward could be lost or, worse, backfire.  Our election eve poll found that 31% of our respondents would be more likely to support a Republican if the party took the lead on reforming immigration.  Electoral benefits, alas, will require constructive action.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

Republicans who are trying to find a way to do something less than putting 11 million undocumented immigrants on the road to citizenship should recognize that they either go big or lose big.  The Latino vote is the fastest growing segment of the electorate in America.  50,000 young Latinos turn 18 every month.  And the plight of the 11 million Americans-in-waiting is a defining issue for a majority of these voters.  If the GOP doesn’t work to share credit on full immigration reform with full citizenship for the 11 million, the GOP’s Latino problem quickly will become an existential crisis.