Politics at Play in Push for Immigration Reform

Immigrants rally in front of LA City Hall demanding reform and rightsMany were caught off guard by the recent bipartisan push in the Senate for immigration reform. In the aftermath of a divisive election and in the midst of a succession fiscal crises, it’s a wonder our divided government has endeavored to tackle such a polarizing issue.

The plan, championed by eight senators including Republicans Marco Rubio and John McCain, and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin, is still in the works. But it will include a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, implementation of new border security measures, and new requirements for businesses to verify the legal status of their workers.

It may well please the Democratic Party’s liberal base, but will likely anger hard-line conservatives.

The failure of former President Bush’s immigration plan, which bears remarkable similarity to the one in the works now, serves as a frank warning of conservative influence in the GOP. The 2005 immigration plan, like the current plan, had broad bipartisan support, but was toppled by right wing factions within the Republican Party.

Yet, there is reason to believe things will turn out differently this time. The Republican Party is still reeling from its defeat in the 2012 Presidential election. Its leaders are coming to terms with the nation’s changing demographics; for the Party to remain relevant, it can’t continue to receive 29 percent of the Latino vote, as it did in 2012.  Thus even a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, which will be sure to oppose President Obama at nearly every step along the way during his second term, may get behind immigration reform, which is widely popular in the Latino community, to avoid future electoral defeats.

The combination of President Obama’s political capital following the 2012 landslide, the GOP’s desire to reach out to the Hispanic community, and the current plan’s bipartisan support may propel it to a better fate than its 2005 counterpart. This Republican political maneuver may usher in greater opportunities for millions of undocumented workers. But only time will tell.

Published by Andre Manuel

Andre Manuel is a staff writer for The Politic from New York, New York. Contact him at andre.manuel@yale.edu.

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