Debating and passing immigration reform in the House after the new Congress is seated in January 2015 would by a seismic event for Republicans and their standing with the public.
But first they will have to choose which public they wish to represent.
Choosing correctly is absolutely central to the Republicans’ future. In order to do so, however, Republicans will have to understand that they will be addressing several different audiences in any efforts they take toward any real immigration reform efforts:
- The general American public: They are supportive of immigration and immigrants, but ambivalent about what to do with those illegal migrants currently living and working in the United States. They don’t think it’s right to break our immigration laws, but they are sympathetic to the plight of established illegal aliens now. They would be supportive of a legalization agreement; are not committed to a ” pathway to citizenship”; feel that there should be some consequences for having broken American immigration laws; want government officials to enforce immigrations laws; want to set in place procedures so that the same problems do not occur again; and want immigration levels kept at the same or reduced levels.
- Republicans who sincerely want immigration reform as part of an effort to help the party become more attractive to new possible supporters;
- Americans and new legal immigrants for whom Republican views on immigration are taken as a proxy for their view on their particular communities. This group has had the rhetorical luxury, to date, of not having to really address difficult, direct questions: What do they really think of people coming into the country illegally? Do they support the advantages to “their groups” of doing this, at the expense of other immigrants abiding by American immigration rules? Why should their group members be exempt from the laws and rules that govern legal immigration entry? By their silence on these matters, and because they have not been directly asked where they stand on these questions, maximalist groups claiming to speak on their behalf have been able to make unreasonable demands.
These are not the only groups affected by and interested in immigration reform, and they are not the only groups that immigration reformers will have to take into account; but they are the three most important. In addition however, reformers will have to be prepared to deal with three other groups whose voices will be loud and strident:
- Republicans who may wish their party’s future well, but have accepted the conventional wisdom of immigration maximalists – including amnesty criteria expanded and put first, enforcement narrowed and implemented at some future date, and substantially raising the total number of legal immigrants granted entry every year;
- Republicans, like the Chamber of Commerce or high-tech industry CEOs, who say they wish their party’s future well, but have substantial economic interests in supporting the maximalist immigration legislation passed by the Senate;
- Congressional Democrats and their supporters, for whom full passage and enactment of the massive Senate immigration bill is the only true and acceptable measure of immigration reform.
On one side stand those panicked by Republican electoral prospects, or their own more immediate reelection prospects; those who stand to gain whether from a vastly increased supply of low-skill or tech workers; and those Democrats and their supporters who will back Republicans only insofar as the latter accede to their wishes.
On the other side is the general public and those who are willing to support reforms that include some form of legalization, so long as the candidates deserve it and earn it by making restitution in a serious meaningful way. And, so long as that forgiveness includes measures that keep the same problem from repeating.
No decision is costless, but one of the choices seems to have a lot merit on the public-interest side. And it provides the opportunity to really help to put the GOP squarely on the side of the American people.
Click HERE to read more