The Republicans on immigration - in D.C. and here

Posted by Dan Barkin on January 16, 2014 

So House Republican leaders in Washington are putting together an immigration proposal which would include a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

And tougher border security, tighter workplace verification, etc., etc. All the things that Republicans want in order to stop illegal immigration. But also a path to legal status.

There are a couple of things at work here.

1. The business side of the Republican Party wants immigration reform, for two reasons. One, there’s a lot of foreigh-born high-tech talent we are educating in American universities they’d like to hire and keep here. Second, there are a lot of low-wage workers that businesses want to keep in the country and on the job. Many of them are here and on the job with papers that are not strictly legit.

2. Then there is the future of the Republican Party. A number of leading Republican politicians are a little worried that a continued hard-line anti-immigration stance is going to be remembered for a long time by Latino voters. There are millions of undocumented folks in the U.S., most of them from south of the border. Many of their children were born here and are citizens. Most of their grandchildren will be citizens. (I wouldn’t bet against the possibility that a grandchild of an undocumented couple living in the shadows today will be president of the U.S. by mid-century.)

If the politics of immigration don’t change, it is likely that these children and grandchildren will run to the polls from 2025 on just to vote against Republican candidates. Most every Democratic presidential nominee will start the general election with heavy majorities of the African-American and the Latino vote. Forget about an anti-immigration Republican ever winning a statewide race in California down the road.

Of course, any move by the Republican congressional leadership to soften the party’s position on immigration is going to cause a lot of intra-party gnashing of teeth. It is doubtful that the most conservative elements in the party will go along, to put it mildly.

A look at the web sites of the candidates for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in North Carolina reflects this.

Thom Tillis, the state House Speaker, says:

“...Thom opposes amnesty and he believes Congress should solve our border security crisis now - before it even debates any other changes ot our immigration laws.”

Greg Brannon, a physician, says: “I do not support amnesty . . . Congress and the President must make every effort to secure our borders . . . Millions crossing our border without our knowledge constitutes a clear threat to our nation’s security. I will work to secure our borders immediately.”

Bill Flynn, a radio broadcaster, says: “Trusting this government with the comprehensive reform of anything is a mistake. Number one: Secure the border. Then we will talk about what is in the best interest of citizens, not law-breakers, when it comes to immigration reform.”

Heather Grant, a nurse practitioner, says: “Illegal immigration is a real problem in our Nation today. We are spending millions of dollars in aid to a populace who are here illegally, which is a criminal offense . . . We must first secure our borders! We cannot resolve this problem if we do not stop the influx of illegal immigrants.”

Ted Alexander, the former mayor of Shelby, doesn’t appear to have a web site up yet. And the Rev. Mark Harris’ issues page on his web site is silent on immigration.

But you get the gist. For the Republican candidates seeking to run against Sen. Kay Hagan, the first priority is border security. And second priority and ninth priority. No one seems to be using the term “ self-deportation,” which didn’t work so great for Mitt Romney in 2012. But there doesn’t seem to be any enthusiasm for talking about comprehensive solutions to the problem of 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally, including an estimated 370,000 in North Carolina neighborhoods.

By the way, Hagan isn’t exactly drawing attention to immigration. On her campaign web site, under the issues tab, immigration is not one of the issues. But she has expressed support for an immigration overhaul that provides a path to citizenship and strengthens border security. Here’s a story that Renee Schoof of our Washington bureau wrote about Hagan’s position in June.

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