Last week, three Republicans came out in support of the House immigration bill HR 15, including two Californians, Reps. Jeff Denham and David Valadao. Commentators praised their bravery for taking a stand—the “embrace of immigration reform eases path for California Republicans,” the LA Times noted, while Buzzfeed invited readers to “meet the Republican sticking his neck out for immigration reform.”
In a dysfunctional Congress taking its marching orders on immigration from Steve King, however, not everyone agrees that getting behind immigration reform is the smart thing to do. While most Republicans agree that their party has to something, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said that granting legal status to immigrants would “destroy our party.”
“What we’re talking about is the suicide of the Republican Party,” he said.
Dana Rohrabacher, please. Passing immigration reform won’t destroy the Republican Party. The Republican Party doesn’t need any help destroying itself.
There’s a reason why so many California Republicans have embraced immigration reform as an issue, why two of the three Republican cosponsors of HR 15 are both from the Golden State, why Darrell Issa (another Californian) is rumored to be the author of an upcoming bill that addresses the 11 million, why a group of California Republican lawmakers sent a letter to the state’s Congressional delegation asking them to support immigration reform, why many of them joined with state Democrats to help pass California’s new immigrant driver’s license law.
In a phrase, they’ve realized that demography is destiny. And as Latino Decisions’ Gary Segura likes to say, “demography is relentless.”
California Republicans, for almost two decades, have had front-row seats to what happens when you anger and alienate Latino voters, one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing voting blocs. They permanently turned Latinos against them in 1994, when Pete Wilson helped shepherd the passage of the the anti-immigrant Prop 187, and Latino voters haven’t looked back since. Today, Republicans are almost an extinct species in California—and a similar fate threatens their national counterparts if Congressional Republicans continue to dither around, refusing to pass immigration reform.
The GOP at large seemed to have a come-to-Jesus moment after the last election, when Latinos broke for Obama over Romney by more than a 3-1 margin, and it seemed that they might follow the wisdom of California Republicans trying to get right with immigration reform. But since then, Congressional Republicans have done worse than nothing on immigration reform; they’ve passed Steve King’s amendment to deport DREAMers and are now actually considering canceling some of the few days left in the Congressional calendar even though immigration reform is still waiting to be addressed. And Dana Rohrabacher this year threatened an 18-year-old DREAMer, telling her “now I know where you live” and that he “hate[s] illegals.”
And now Congress’ approval rating is at 13%. Rep. Rohrabacher has it backwards. Immigration reform will help save the national GOP; it’s blowhards like Rohrabacher and Steve King that are destroying it.