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Two California Republicans Offer Contrasting Models for Kevin McCarthy on Immigration

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Will Kevin McCarthy Follow the Path of Pete Wilson or Ronald Reagan?

Washington, DC – As a series of new reports capture, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) likely ascension to House Majority Leader will have important implications for immigration policy and moreover, the political future of the Republican Party.  And coming from California, no one should understand the politics surrounding this issue better than the Majority Leader-to-be.

Let’s take a look at former California Republican Governor Pete Wilson.  In 1994, Wilson spearheaded the effort to pass Proposition 187— an anti-immigrant law designed to keep undocumented immigrants from enrolling in public school or using other public services.  The law ultimately served as the precursor to anti-immigrant laws passed in Arizona, Alabama and other states that have inspired nationwide outrage from Latino, Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) and allied members of the community.  While the proposition passed, it was ultimately struck down by the courts.  But the most lasting impact was political: the Prop. 187 battle is often credited with mobilizing Latino voters and turning what was a purple state into a solid blue state ever since.

On the other hand, almost a decade prior to Prop. 187, fellow California Republican and former President Ronald Reagan offered an alternative, a model for Republicans to show leadership on immigration and reap the political rewards. After signing the 1986 immigration bill into law, Reagan said, “The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society.”  And in his farewell address to the nation, President Reagan referred back to his vision for America as a “shining city upon a hill,” noting, “And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get here.”

As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) noted on CBS’s “Face the Nation” yesterday, the national GOP is destined to face the same fate as the California GOP should House Republicans fail to pass immigration reform before 2016: “If we keep playing this game that self-deportation is the only answer for the Republican Party, we will have destroyed our chances in 2016 and dealt a death blow to our party because by 2050 the majority of the country is going to be African American, Hispanic and Asian.”

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “All eyes are on McCarthy.  When it comes to immigration, will he be a Pete Wilson Republican or a Ronald Reagan Republican?  Will he continue to let the Steve King wing of the Party define the GOP before new generations of Latino, APIA, and immigrant voters?  Or will he and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) take decisive action to lead the Party in a new direction, and pull the GOP back from the brink of the demographic cliff?  The future of their Party rests on making the right choice.”

354 Days Since Senate Passed its Immigration Bill; 10 Days Left Until Window of Opportunity Closes

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America’s Voice – Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform