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Weekend Talkers Across the Political Spectrum Agree: GOP Needs to “Walk the Walk” on Immigration Reform

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Jeb Bush capped off his whirlwind immigration book release with appearances on all the major English language and Spanish language Sunday shows this past weekend.  After starting last week distancing himself from his past support for a path to citizenship, Bush concluded the week by embracing theSenate plan and the concept of citizenship – as predicted.

Yet the larger takeaway should not be that Jeb Bush walked back on immigration, but rather, that the Republican Party has walked forward on the issue.  According to a new story in the Los Angeles Times out today, the Gang of 8 Senators have come to an agreement on a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million immigrants: “The group’s current draft is largely in line with President Obama’s call to set a pathway to earned citizenship as part of a broader immigration reform package, as well as with recent efforts by prominent Republican lawmakers to resolve an issue that hurt GOP candidates in November’s election.”

As a range of observers confirm, the Republican Party’s recent embrace of immigration reform with citizenship is yet another reason why reform prospects look good.

  • Jeb Bush is now in line with Senate Gang of 8’s framework and pathway to citizenship.  He said on ABC’s “This Week,” “Sen. Graham and I talked.  He was responding to concerns that were expressed before the book was actually published,” said Bush on ABC’s “This Week.” “I told him that I support his efforts and I applaud what he’s doing.  And he concluded, after he heard what the thesis of the book is that we’re in sync. We’re on the same — on the same path.
  • Conservative Columnist George Will says that a plan without citizenship “is not going to work.” Will who also appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” told host George Stephanopoulos, “What we’re really arguing about is what to do about the 11 million illegal immigrants who are here already. And I think what we learned this week was any plan that does not envision as an end point citizenship for those is not going to work.”
  • House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy says that any pessimism about the House’s ability to pass immigration reform might be misplaced.  Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” he says, “I wouldn’t underestimate the House’s ability to pass the immigration bill…I think we have plenty of ideas on that, and I think there’s an opportunity that we can move the ball as well.”
  • As a new Daily Kos post demonstrates, it’s not Republican voters who are anti-immigration reform but GOP leaders.  According to the post, “In all polls asking about comprehensive immigration reform—a path to citizenship as long as undocumented immigrants have a clean criminal record, learn English, and pay back taxes/fine, I couldn’t find a single one in which Republican support wasn’t above 60 percent, and that’s because there has always been broad popular consensus over the need and desirability of legalizing our undocumented population. There has been no “stunning reversal” in opinion. In other words, the roadblock to reform hasn’t been Republicans, it has been Republicans in Congress. As is often the case, the elected GOP is beholden to a tiny vocal fringe, and they’ll suffer the electoral repercussions for a long, long time.”

  • As New York Times Columnist Paul Krugman points out, immigration reform is “good for everybody.”  Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” last month, he said, “The question is one of regularizing the status of people here, basically making them legal, bringing them under labor law, all of that. How could you really be against that? It’s — you know, it’s got to be good for everybody to do that.  The Republican Party has a problem. The leadership understands that they cannot — they’re doomed if they are only the party of old white people, to put it bluntly.”
  • Conservative Washington Post “Right Turn” Blogger Jennifer Rubin criticizes immigration reform opponents.  She writes, “Conservatives, at least a bunch of them, have become too fatalistic these days. The GOP can’t change on immigration, is the frequent refrain, not surprisingly from those who themselves don’t favor immigration reform… That is wrong, from our vantage point, and betrays a regrettable trend among right-leaning pundits. The idea that the electorate is frozen, unreachable through persuasion and reason, is a sign of intellectual exhaustion. In fact, the GOP electorate and the country at large morph and evolve all the time.”  She adds, “There is a healthy debate, care of Jeb Bush, as to whether permanent residency or citizenship should be the outcome for those here illegally. What seemed impossible in the 2012 election (Amnesty!) is now a real potential. We may yet see a conservative plan for immigration reform and legalization that can gain widespread acceptance in the party.”
  • Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant groups that used to drive the debate in the GOP are focused on, well, other matters.  According to a Media Matters recap of his appearance on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” Bob Dane, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) spokesman, tried to refute criticism from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for classifying FAIR as a “hate group” and “attempted to discredit the SPLC as a ‘far-left political attack machine’ and compared the SPLC’s activism to McCarthyism. Before the segment was over, Dane denied the very existence of hate groups, claiming that while hate crimes are real, ‘a hate group is a concoction, an invention of the politically-left Southern Poverty Law Center.’”  It can’t be a good thing for your cause when your message boils down to: we are not a hate group because there is no such thing.”       

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