Immigration Reform 2013: The GOP is Shooting Itself in the Foot

ByGabriel Grand

If Republicans in the House of Representatives fail to take up the issue of immigration reform, it's not just immigrants who will suffer.

Here's Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the "Gang of Eight" that championed the Senate's recent comprehensive immigration bill:

"[Hispanics are] the fastest-growing demographic in the country, and we're losing votes every election cycle. And it has to stop. It's one thing to shoot yourself in the foot. Just don't reload the gun."

But wait; Senator Graham didn't say that when the Senate passed the immigration reform measure with a convincing 68-32 majority, or when the House Republicans greeted the bill with their trademark "What's the rush?" attitude.

That quote from Senator Graham is from last November, right after a confident Latino voting bloc helped to re-elect Barack Obama for a second term. Back then, 71% of Latinos had just voted for President Obama in the 2012 election. Meanwhile, only 27% voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney, a lower percentage than Republican candidates have received in the last three elections.

The fact of the matter is that the Latino vote isn't going away; in fact, Latinos will only continue to exert more influence on elections as time goes on. They already make up 16% of the U.S. population, and for the first time ever made up 10% of the electorate in 2012. The projected Hispanic American population in the U.S. in 2050 is 138.2 million, or 30%, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Why, then, do some Republicans in the House feel like they can take their sweet time on fixing immigration laws so broken that even George W. Bush said they "aren't working"? Why aren't the heads of GOP representatives exploding from the immense political pressure to pass immigration reform?

The answer is relatively simple: Due to insidious district gerrymandering, the average House Republican just isn't seeing that much heat from his or her own constituents. While the GOP on a national level is facing a crisis, most right-leaning congressional representatives can fall back on a reliably-conservative and relatively-permanent voting base at home.

As Representative Charlie Dent (R-Penn.) put it, "Is this an issue that people care about? Yes. Is it one that keeps them up at night? Probably not."

The lack of local political pressure on individual G.O.P representatives in the House is what allows Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to make statements like "We don't want to rush into anything."

What makes matters worse is that many Americans view the Senate bill, with its provisional legal status and 13-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, as simply providing "amnesty" for lawbreakers.

This type of black-and-white analysis of a complex situation fails to grasp the reality that our current immigration system is inhumane and untenable. Furthermore, even the GOP acknowledges that immigration reform will benefit economic growth and national security.

READ: 6 Things You Need to Know About the Senate's Immigration Bill

The House's attitude towards immigration reform is a case study in tunnel vision. Republican representatives know that their party will be "in a much weaker position," as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a closed GOP strategy meeting on Wednesday, in the 2016 election if they fail to address immigration.

But compared to the 2014 congressional elections, in which every single Republican representative will have to defend his or her seat in the House, November 8, 2016 might as well be the Day of Judgement. 

And if House Republicans continue to procrastinate on immigration reform, the apocalypse may very well come early for the Grand Old Party.

Gabe Grand is an editorialist for PolicyMic.

Follow @gabethegrand