Immigration Reform 2013: Republican Plan to Beat Obama Will Tear the GOP Apart

Republicans are going to get demolished on immigration reform during Obama’s second term, claims a Monday article by Politico.

The president has made clear his desire to make immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, a top priority of his second administration. Following Obama’s crushing 44% lead in the Hispanic vote during the election, Latino mega-donors are lining up to flood Washington with pro-reform dollars.              

“There’s a growing sense that this is an opportunity that should be taken,” former Republcan National Committee chairman and Republican consultant Ed Gillespie said in the article. “There’s no instinct like a survival instinct.”

Forgive me for being skeptical that this strategy will work. The GOP has been digging a very large hole in the ground on immigration for a very long time, and until very recently they approached immigration reform with their heads in it. Election-watchers may remember Republican consultant Dick Morris’s predictions of a Romney-Ryan landslide in 2012? How about Sean Hannity’s infamous proclamation that minority voters and women “feel they are entitled to things”?

The problem here isn’t a narrow focus on immigration reform. As Alex Massie noted shortly after the election, “it is not just about immigration. It is about belonging. It is about respect. It is about being part of the American family…. The GOP doesn’t understand this.”

“Political consultants in Washington are panicking about Hispanics, and their solution is to grant amnesty.... They’re afraid Hispanics hate Republicans, so they want more of them? It doesn’t pass the laugh test. This is an important issue with the Republican base, and members are right to be worried about getting primaried,” said a conservative Republican legislator speaking anonymously.

I like the clear implication that what Republicans should really be doing with their time is finding ways to make sure that there are less Hispanics.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of many moderate Republicans on immigration reform, especially emerging Latino leaders like Marco Rubio. Unfortunately, these voices have been largely outshouted by the kind of anti-immigration groups pushing legislation like the infamous SB 1070. Republicans pushed legislation that was anathema to Latino voters as recently as 4 months ago.

Expect many moderate Republicans to officially cross the aisle in the coming months and endorse an Obama-led plan rather than risk not; as Politico noted, “the White House is calculating that smart Republicans will put their stamp on the legislation, broadening support.” This will help individual Republicans save face, but it will not help the GOP overall. Other Republicans, especially conservative Tea Party legislators, will face increasingly bitter races as their communities transform from mainly-white enclaves into competitive, Latino-heavy districts over the coming years.

There’s no beating the Obama administration on this issue. Immigration reform will go down in history as the success of a Democratic president.