The GOP doesn't actually want to improve its party's image. Although endless editorials have been written about the need for immigration reform to improve the GOP's electoral prospects amongst Latinos, the majority of Republican politicians have sneered at the effort. Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) remarks about immigrants smuggling drugs is only the latest in a long string of attacks that confirm the party's insular outlook.
Aimed at the children of undocumented immigrants who would become legal immigrants under the DREAM Act, King said, "For every [DREAMer] who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert." Even if some Republicans do come aboard for immigration reform, the most vocal ones condemn it with such vitriol like this. What will last in the public's mind is not the few Republican votes that passed it but comments like these.
In the same way that Todd Akin’s statement on abortion cemented Republicans as anti-women, these outbursts on immigration only further paint the GOP as close-minded and racist. Nor is this rhetoric new. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) compared undocumented immigrants to vagrants and animals, and Rep. Moe Brooks (R-Ala.) argued that the government should evict all undocumented immigrants as a means of job creation. Although Republican leaders may denounce such comments occasionally, it is difficult for Latinos to accept any movement on immigration reform as a genuine reflection of the party's ideals.
The vote margins among the allegedly moderate Senate Republicans further confirm an aversion towards immigration reform. Fourteen (14) Republican Senators supported the bill, but more than double that number, 32, rejected it. To make any form reform pass in the House, the bill must become even more conservative and even further alienating towards Latinos. Republican demands for border fences and more border agents, in particular, undermine the appeal of immigration reform to Latinos.
Because so many Republicans are reluctant to pass immigration reform and others tie it unpalatable measures for Latinos, the current efforts in Congress will not improve the reputation of the GOP. At best, Republicans will be perceived as divided, but on the issues of racism and close-mindedness, that's not something you want to be divided on.