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House GOP Out Of Step with Its Own Party on Immigration Reform

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Republicans Continue to Risk White House in 2016 by Making Steve King Face of the Party in Immigration 

In analysis at the FiveThirtyEight.com website titled “Like Bush, Many Republicans Are Moderate on Immigration, Nate Silver assesses the political implications of Jeb Bush’s recent “act of love” comments regarding undocumented immigrants.  After examining Republican voters’ views on immigration policy, Silver notes that, “the ‘narrative’ of the campaign may be that Bush has taken an exceptionally bold position, when in fact many constituencies within the Republican Party share his views.”  Writes Silver:

[M]any Republican voters are sympathetic toward immigrants and immigration reform.  Last year, FiveThirtyEight’s Micah Cohen compiled polls on Republican attitudes toward a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants and found that support varied depending on the requirements.  An average of 37 percent of Republicans supported a pathway to citizenship without requirements, while 72 percent supported one if additional conditions, like the payment of back taxes and a criminal background check, were met.

What about attitudes among Republican primary voters, who are often more conservative than Republicans as a whole?  Their views are also more equivocal than you might assume from news accounts.  The 2012 exit poll of Republican primary voters in Arizona, which has some of the country’s most conservative immigration policies, asked them what should be done about ‘illegal immigrants working in the U.S.’  Only 34 percent said such immigrants should be deported; the same fraction, 34 percent, said they should be offered a chance to apply for citizenship.  (The remaining 28 percent of voters said these immigrants should be allowed to stay as temporary workers.)…

…A pathway to citizenship with requirements is the least divisive of these issues; 72 percent of Republicans support one, as compared with 83 percent of Democrats.  A pathway to citizenship without requirements is more controversial, and produces a 32-point partisan gap between Democrats and Republicans…

Silver’s analysis echoes our assessment that Republican voters (including primary voters and caucus-goers) are surprisingly pragmatic and pro-reform on immigration.  As conservative Republican pollster and consultant Jon Lerner said, “There are around 20 percent of GOP primary voters who oppose most forms of immigration reform.  This minority tends to be vocal, but their level of activism should not be confused with the size of their numbers.  The large majority of primary voters see a badly broken immigration system and want it fixed.”  As America’s Voice presents in this 2014 polling memo, available district-specific immigration polling conducted in the past year by both Democratic and Republican-affiliated pollsters in 25 different Republican-held congressional districts (including the conservative district that sends Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to Congress), shows consistent and broad public support for immigration reform in every single district polled.

Despite the realities of immigration polling among Republican voters and the overwhelming political need for 2016 and beyond for the GOP to change its image to Latino voters, the Republican Party is still allowing its Steve King wing to drive its direction on policy and to define the Party to Latino voters.  King’s amendment to defund the DACA program and subject DREAMers to deportation passed with the support of his colleagues; related measures aimed at restricting the right of the President to exercise discretion in the implementation of laws have also been brought up for votes and approved; but the long-awaited vote on immigration reform with a path to legal status and citizenship?  Hasn’t happened.

Meanwhile, King continues to define the Party through jaw-dropping comments.  In just the latest example of his worldview, he called for DREAMers to be deported because of a hypothetical scenario that a military widow or widower would have to pay “out of state tuition to go to UCLA, sitting in a classroom in a desk next to someone who gets a free ride, who if ICE had been delivering that free ride scholarship would have been compelled instead to remove them from the United States.”  The supposed concern for the military is especially interesting given King’s recent crusade against the ENLIST Act.

Pro-immigration reform Republican strategist Ana Navarro told ABC News this weekend:

The Republican brand is in a deep hole with Hispanics.  This did not happen in a year and it’s not going to be solved in a year.  There’s a lot of work to be done.

Every day that the Republican Party allows Steve King to remain in the driver’s seat makes that work more difficult.  As Nate Silver shows, the King vision on immigration and America is not embraced by the Republican base.  So why are potential 2016 Republican contenders, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), and other supposed Party leaders refusing to stand up to King and chart a different course?

  • View America’s Voice’s latest scorecard on the immigration voting record of select House Republicans HERE
  • Read America’s Voice memo on Republican public opinion and polling on immigration reform HERE