While Congress decides how to proceed on the newest, highly debatable immigration bill, House Republicans are sitting rather pretty, with no substantial incentive or pressure to act. Demographics are changing in the United States, and as the Latino community becomes the majority, it will begin to command legislative efforts, including immigration reform. Even so, there are several reasons House Republicans do not believe it is in the country’s best interests to ensure that a comprehensive bill gets passed at this time.
1. Little public demand, especially for agreed upon provisions of the bill
Let’s face it. U.S. citizens are not lining up in revolutionary formations to ensure that an immigration bill gets through Congress. Yes, some Americans are concerned that the border with Mexico is inadequately secured, and believe the immigration system is broken and needs fixing. But there is no pressing reason to implement a concrete and comprehensive path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. The public is preoccupied with unemployment numbers, marriage equality, NSA security leaks (and a fugitive on the run), student-loan rate increases, the Trayvon Martin case, and the developing situation in Egypt. House Republicans are aware of this, and see no reason to try and add another issue to the mix.
House Republicans are torn between voting for a bill that could hurt them in districts dominated by white voters, and alienating the Latino community, which largely voted against the party in the 2012 presidential election. The country appears to be split on the immigration issue, including the question of how to best secure the border. Until the public decides which immigration issues need to be taken care of, and galvanizes support for specific solutions (taking a cue from the gay marriage campaign), House Republicans can play the waiting game.
2. The economy
It is no secret that the U.S. economy is struggling. Although recent job numbers are encouraging, the long-term effects of the economic downturn will last far longer than anyone expected.
Immigration legislation like the DREAM Act affects the economy. If more individuals become U.S. citizens, it is inevitable that many of them will not find employment in the struggling economy, leading to an increase in unemployment benefit applications. And those who do secure employment will partake in the costly benefits of living in the United States, such as Medicare and Social Security. This would divert resources away from current U.S. citizens, causing further resentment for immigrants. Given the economic environment – and a bunker mentality focused keeping America "America" – it does not make sense for House Republicans to provide a legitimate path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, rather than focusing on creating and stabilizing employment for current U.S. citizens.
3. The Affordable Care Act
From the start, Republicans have had a vendetta against the Affordable Care Act. Eliminating President Barack Obama’s universal health care program will always be on the agenda for House Republicans. When the bill was signed into law in 2010, Republicans viewed it as a significant defeat, and the achievement certainly helped Obama’s 2012 campaign.
House Republicans do not wish to suffer another significant legislative defeat, especially with regard to a topic so important to demographics. They will continue to fight the provisions of the Affordable Care Act until there are none left to haggle over. Once the Act is part of U.S. policy, and beyond debate and scrutiny, Republicans might focus on a comprehensive immigration bill. Politically, there is nothing to gain and everything to lose from challenging the Democrats plans for immigration. It behooves House Republicans to thoroughly attack the Affordable Care Act before turning their attention to debating a comprehensive immigration bill.