In the current discourse revolving around the Republican Party and its position on immigration reform, a new argument has begun evolving. Over the past several months the drama surrounding comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) has been a newsworthy topic. The back and forth between democrat and republican representatives in both the house and the Senate has almost become difficult to track. However, important politicians and political analysts alike are saying that an overall weakness in the GOP’s political strategy is that the party may not be paying enough attention to the Hispanic demographic. Furthermore the party has been accused of balking at immigration reform in general.
A Bad Political Move for the GOP?
The Hispanic population is the fastest growing demographic in the nation. Not supporting or appealing to this ethnic group could be considered a very dangerous political move for the GOP. Political analysts are beginning to share the same public opinion that the GOP needs to amend its strategy or risk losing all support from this important population. Michael Bloomberg recently publicly stated at an immigration forum, “If you are against the fastest-growing voting bloc in the country, you and your party don’t have a future.” Also present at the form were Republican Governor Rick Snyder and Carlos Gutierrez, a former Commerce Secretary for the Bush administration.
The Growing Hispanic Vote
National Republicans have stressed the importance of passing reforms to address the growing issue of 11 million immigrants currently residing in the United States as illegals if they hope to remain competitive in the upcoming presidential election. Upon examination of recent elections, the Hispanic population has begun having an effect on election outcomes, especially in states in the Southwest. A good example of this would be in the case of Mitt Romney who only won 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012.
The GOP and Political Fallout
Currently Republican leaders are working on a set of immigration principles that they hope to present to the Republican caucus at its annual retreat. Although some may take this document as a sign of progress, the new proposals still face stark opposition in the House where Republicans openly state reservations about granting amnesty to individuals currently in the U.S. under an illegal status. However, Republican politicians are risking political fallout in some districts by opposing amnesty. This type of fallout would widely be seen as a hard-fought victory for the Obama administration.
The forum sponsored by the Partnership for a New American Economy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was a fresh reminder of the divide within the GOP between national
Opinions from Leading Republicans
Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez spoke out on the topic of comprehensive immigration reform. He publicly stated that an “immigration overhaul” was needed in order to secure a strong workforce down the pipeline. His exact statement reads on the issue reads that without an immigration overhaul, “our workforce down the road doesn’t grow.” Gutierrez is one of the leading Republicans who argue that the GOP needs to focus more strongly on the topic of immigration.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the GOP
In 2013 the Senate passed a version of a bi-partisan bill which set out to address border security, enforcement measures and in addition offered a path to citizenship for the approximate 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States currently. GOP leaders have taken a “piecemeal” approach to the bill after the measure stalled in the GOP-led House. Michael Bloomberg a Republican-turned-independent has put the onus of moving past this obstacle in the hands of the party’s leadership. Bloomberg recently stated, “It’s up to the leadership, if Boehner wants to get it done. He is an accomplished politician. He’s been around a long time. He’s got a tough hand, but that’s what leadership is all about and his tactics will be what he’s comfortable with.”
Vice president of the Chamber and a key personnel on immigration stated that Boehner is attempting to construct a unified document that the GOP caucus could support. Republican Representative McCarthy (California) who is the No. 3 leader in the House has expressed his support for a path to legalization for the majority of immigrants currently in the U.S. where Democrats have pushed for a full path to citizenship. Legalization versus full citizenship has been a key issue in the discussion over comprehensive immigration reform and appears to be where politicians are not backing down.
Support for Immigration Legislation
Recently a peculiar coalition of business, labor and evangelicals has begun lobbying enthusiastically for immigration legislation. Thomas Donohue, the president of the Chamber of Commerce has been quoted saying that immigration overhaul is a primary priority for the coming year. Donohue and Boehner have recently begun meeting to discuss the issue in depth.
As mentioned previously, many House Republican’s districts have seen a recent increase in the Hispanic population and are beginning to feel the pressure of upcoming elections. Not supporting immigration overhaul could result in a total loss from the Hispanic population, which could be a deciding factor in upcoming elections. House Republicans who are in this scenario have begun to shift into a more independent stance on comprehensive immigration reform, most likely in an attempt to glean more support from the Hispanic community.
What’s Next for the GOP?
Some would say that the GOP has backed itself into a corner by not being more flexible or cooperative with immigration legislation. The influence of the Hispanic population has become an increasingly important topic for GOP House members. This scenario can go in several directions however there are two scenarios which are more likely than others. GOP House members could ignore the influence of the Hispanic population and continue its stringent defense against CIR which could result in the possible loss of support from this community. Conversely, GOP House members could begin to shift away from past positions and begin to support immigration overhaul and retain some support from the Hispanic population. As immigration reform continues to develop the reality of the GOP’s circumstances will become increasingly more evident. Only time will tell what this outcome will be.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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