Immigration Reform 2013: Can Marco Rubio Convince Other Republicans?


The latest media offensive on immigration reform has started. It is not from Hispanic lobbying groups, anti-immigration reform groups, or Democratic-affiliated groups. This ad is from conservative Republicans.

The target? Other conservative Republicans who may derail reform efforts.

The ad, which is set to air in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Iowa, and Kentucky, features Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the bipartisan Gang of 8 who released their immigration reform package in April, pushing new immigration policies while using conservative messaging. The ad represents a conservative push to sell the legislation to conservative voters and more importantly, conservative politicians who could kill the new legislation.

The ad aims to address complaints that opponents of immigration reform often bring up during the immigration debate. It focuses on "tough" enforcement, "no giveaways for law breakers," and the fact that such legislation is "very conservative."

Rubio states in the video that the immigration bill "puts in place the toughest enforcement measures in the history of the United States, potentially in the world."

Opponents of immigration reform have already struck out. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) attempted to utilize the Boston Marathon bombings to slow down the immigration reform bill in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday. A row occurred during a hearing on the immigration bill over Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) remarks about immigration and the Boston bombings. It should be noted that the above ad is set to run in both Paul’s and Grassley’s home states.

Anti-immigration forces are already marshaling to kill any attempt at immigration reform. Conservative talk radio is rallying to defeat the current immigration bill. A similar push in 2007 completely killed an attempt under the George W. Bush administration to pass an immigration reform proposal. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has already spoken against the bill, announcing his opposition to the current immigration proposal.

However pro-immigration reform Republicans are confronting the anti-immigration faction of their party head-on in order to pass a bill. Grover Norquist, the conservative president of Americans for Tax Reform, backed Senator Rubio on an immigration program on Fox News. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has also waded into the immigration debate, attempting to use his status among the Republican Party as a fiscal wonk to shy away fears that immigration reform would be an economic loss to the nation.

Republican concerns are not just limited in a general interest in immigration reform. There has been a growing recognition among Republican strategists that they need to grow the brand of the party beyond their primary constituency, old white voters. Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group in America and as these charts show, the Republican Party has had a problem in appealing to them in recent years. The push to increase the brand of the party among Hispanics has even come down to the language used, with some Republicans backing off the harsh rhetoric of "anchor babies" and "aliens" in favor of terms that are much less alienating to Hispanic voters.

It remains to be seen where exactly the Republican Party will go regarding immigration reform. The pro side may be able to defeat the anti. The antis may sink the bill. One thing is for sure; this debate is not going to end anytime soon in the Republican Party.