The Republican Party is hurting itself by taking immigration reform off the table. Recently, the Republican leadership announced that it was killing any possibility of immigration reform during this midterm election year. This runs counter to the party’s desire to court the Latino vote — a growing political force to be reckoned with. And it marks a hasty turnaround.
In late January, the GOP introduced a set of principles on immigration reform. These included recycled conservative policies of punitive enforcement measures, such as enhanced border security, advanced tracking system, employer-based verification, legal reforms, relief for some undocumented youth and a vague form of legal status for those who qualify.
This harsh and deeply flawed set of principles didn’t include a key component for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants: a clear pathway to citizenship. But at least the party showed some inclination to restart the national discourse on our broken immigration policy.
Ironically, Republicans had an opening to attack President Barack Obama on this issue. Obama remains on a record pace to deport more than two million undocumented immigrants, and he continues to militarize the U.S.—Mexico border — two deeply unpopular policies with Latinos. But by shirking immigration reform, a key issue for Latinos, the Republican leadership has let Obama and the Democratic Party off the hook.
The Republican leadership, which includes House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., capitulated to the extremists in their party and to cowardly House Republicans who dread to be challenged from anti-immigrant tea party candidates. Essentially, these leaders gave their colleagues who are vulnerable some cover by choosing not to put the issue on the agenda.
President George W. Bush and his adviser Karl Rove understood the need to reach out to Latino voters, something that was lost on Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. Romney’s anti-immigrant views (remember “self-deporting”?) helped propel three-fourths of Latinos to vote for Obama.
It looks like the Republicans still haven’t learned this lesson.Alvaro Huerta wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues.