Immigration Reform 2013: Republican Shift is a Sign Of Democracy in Action


Capitol Hill is inching closer to an agreement on immigration reform. The AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce found common ground on how to handle guest workers, and senators from the so-called "Gang of Eight" agreed on a low-skilled worker program. But these seemingly isolated events play into a much larger trend, revealing another classic Republican flip-flop on immigration reform.

In his 2010 Senate bid, Republican super-star Marco Rubio bashed his opponent “for voicing support for the 2007 immigration reform effort” and came out against granting a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants. Just three short years later, Senator Rubio is now part of the aforementioned Gang of Eight, looking to do exactly what he vowed not to when he was running. Rubio, might I remind you, is hardly the exception to the rule. From Republican “pundits” on television to countless Congressmen, flip-flopping on immigration is the latest Republican fad.

What’s telling about this recent shift in tone is its timing: Soon after an election in which Democrats won the Hispanic vote in a landslide, Republicans soften on an issue that hits close to home for many in that ethnic group. Surprisingly enough, this politically motivated view reversal is hardly a well-kept secret in Washington. During an interview with ABC, Senator McCain, in a moment of candor, admitted the motivation behind the recent Republican lunges for immigration: “We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote which we think should be ours.”

Even more interesting is an analysis of the ethics of such a drastic change in policy. Sure, Republicans went from advocating the brutish policy of self-deportation to being totally ready to grant a path to citizenship to an illegal population previously thought to be morally depraved.

Rather than designing policy by looking at what’s best for the country, Republicans looked at what was best for their future as a political party. Some would be quick to dismiss this act as unprincipled and morally objectionable, but perhaps such a political move is to be expected, even embraced in our democratic process. 

Last November, the American people sent a clear message to the Republican Party — Hispanics especially — that this party’s views did not reflect those of most Americans. In order for Republicans to remain politically viable in future elections, they had to change their policies, including that dreaded practice of self-deportation. Republicans slowly, almost begrudgingly so came to accept that the people had overridden the old party platform and immigration reform had to be pursued. We could hear murmurs of resistance when Bill O’Reilly prophetically proclaimed, “It's not a traditional America anymore … The white establishment is now a minority.”

Yet this is the beauty of democracy in all of its wonderful glory. Just as the founding fathers intended, the voice of the people would always be heard before that of a few politicians sitting in a smoke-filled backroom. So while we could insist on deriding this latest Republican flip-flop as disingenuous and unethical, we could also shift our own perspective and see this political move as an example of democracy running its course.