Immigration Reform 2013: Here's How the Tea Party Will Kill It


The Washington Examiner cited a new poll by Rasmussen, which indicated that a large number of Americans support the granting of legal status to undocumented immigrants. Although they strongly favor immigration reform, the survey also showed that 66% of Americans want the border to be secured first.

In the course of the immigration reform debate, many conservatives have been arguing that reform should be put on hold because the border has yet to be secured. During the presidency of Barack Obama, a great deal of investment has been made to bolster security at the border. However, despite this increase in border security, many Republicans continue to propagate the idea that the border is completely porous. Although security has been greatly enhanced at the border, many Republicans are, nonetheless, using the security issue as a pretext to either stop or vote against immigration reform.

Since he has been in office, the president has been aggressive in enforcing immigration laws and stepping up border security. For instance, the Obama administration deported close to 2 million undocumented immigrants; the president sent back undocumented immigrants at a greater rate than former President George W. Bush. To prevent border crossing, there are more guards patrolling the border than ever before. Moreover, in many parts of the border, there have been constructions of fences. Because of these steps, the border is better protected under Obama than it was during the entirety of the Bush presidency.

In spite of these major improvements in border security, many conservatives remain hell-bent that the Obama administration is not interested in border security. In fact, a never-ending chorus of Republicans still argues that the immigration bill "is doomed to fail" if the border continues to be unsecured.

To attract Republicans' support for immigration reform, the bill under consideration contains more initiatives that would further beef up security at the border. For instance, the bill will add even more border agents; border surveillance will be reinforced in the form of "unmanned aerial drones." Overall, the bill will spend billions more to provide added security to the border. Moreover, the Senate bill will create a commission that will be made up of officials, from neighboring states, whose main task will be to assess the "progress of these measures." Those officials will also act as advisers to Homeland Security on border security issues.

The majority of Americans support immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. Most Republicans, however, are adamantly opposed to the pathway to citizenship, which is one of the key features of the bill. Congressional Republicans, therefore, are facing a serious dilemma. After the overwhelming support that Obama received in the 2012 presidential election from Hispanic voters, many Republicans came to realize that it is an imperative that they reach out to Hispanic voters in order for the party to remain competitive in presidential elections. The bulk of Republicans in the House represent gerrymandered districts where most of the voters hold conservative beliefs. Republican Senators who represent red states are in a similar situation. Therefore, many Republicans are not afraid of a Democratic challenge; but they are gravely worried about a primary challenge. Those congresspersons and senators know that most of their voters oppose immigration reform. Although support for reform could greatly enhance the image of the party among Hispanics, many congressional Republicans are fully aware that a yes-vote could put their seat in jeopardy. In the context between aiding their party or their political career, many Republicans will seek to protect their own seats. In so doing, they will use border security as a convenient excuse in an effort to derail the bill or to justify their vote against it.