A number of high profile GOP leaders have joined the ranks of their opposition in support of finding a middle ground for Republicans and immigration reform.

Author: Noel Marie LaPlume
Date: March 7, 2011

Lo and behold, the Republican Party has woken up to smell the humus! Finally, a number of high profile GOP leaders have joined the ranks of their opposition in support of finding a middle ground for immigration enforcement and reform. Yet this can by no means be interpreted as Republican and Democrats working together to produce a comprehensive immigration bill to stop the legislative standstill that keeps them from doing their job on this subject.

No- while the vast majority of Republican leaders have not yet aborted their mission of changing the social framework of this country by repelling international newcomers and repealing the very civil rights our founding forefathers were willing to give up their life to protect. Some have, however, realized that the notion that a slew of immigration enforcement bills will make all the illegal immigrants who live in this country go away is as unrealistic as the other extreme view of leaving our borders unguarded for unchecked immigration to go on. Even though the right course of action to take on immigration policy is hard to define given the complexity and magnitude of the issue, one thing is certain: the immigrant population is so vast and intricately connected with our countries socio-economic and geo-political well-being that polarizing this group will only lead to a dead end for any party who tries. As Senator Graham put it, “How in the world can the Republican Party sustain itself nationally without [immigration] reform?” This telling question reiterates the belief that immigration is indeed a critical platform that will define the future of the party.

The name of this pre-2012 presidential candidacy-trail game is “voter appeal.” The basic underlying rule states that the political party with the highest number of votes wins the office. And because the community of immigrants is such a widespread and big demographic- especially within “swing states” that are considered key to win office- the party that can win their favor will be the one likely to succeed. And although until recently they were lagging behind in this arena, Republican party leaders eyeing the upcoming presidential election got a running start with Hispanic voters by hosting two high-profile conferences to appeal to the fast-growing community. But these gatherings, supported by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Washington, and another co-chaired by former Gov. Jeb Bush in Miami, laid bare the issue that could continue to bedevil the party’s success with Hispanic voters.

Whether the Republican Party succeeds in connecting with Hispanic voters, concentrated in battleground states like Nevada, Colorado and Florida, will help determine whether President Obama wins a second term in 2012 and the balance of power in Congress. “If you send the signals of ‘them vs. us’ you’re not going to be able to get the desired result,” said Bush, whose brother, President George W. Bush, unsuccessfully pursued immigration reform. “Leaders have to lead and that means they have the responsibility of civility as well as having a tone that draws people toward our cause and not against it.” Thereby underscoring the challenge the GOP Party faces if it wishes to appeal to the Hispanic constituency, one that is plagued by the party’s abrasive position on comprehensive immigration reform. But Republicans have time and again failed to change their stance on the matter by resisting to embrace a comprehensive policy- and these conferences proved to be no exception. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the former Florida Representative, said: “If we become perceived as an anti-immigrant party, America, being a country of immigrants, will never allow us to be the majority party.” Following this line of thought, Jeb Bush had the following to say on the matter: “If you believe in the conservative philosophy as I do, it would be incredibly stupid over the long haul to ignore the burgeoning Hispanic vote. They will be the swing voters, as they are today in the swing states. I you want to elect a center-right president of the United States, it seems to me you should be concerned about places like New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Texas, places where but for the Hispanic vote, elections are won and lost.”

Speaking with reporters, Jeb Bush took pains to emphasize that the Republican Party, by and large, wants to solve the country’s immigration problem, but stated that the problem was that a vocal minority dominates the discussion. Although we would be most delighted to believe that this were true- that the problem lay within a minority- it is quite difficult to do so given the non-stop anti-immigration rhetoric that is being discharged from the Republican base. The latest evidence of which is corroborated by the recent maneuver to repeal the 14th Amendment guarantee in order to bar newborn children from automatically being given U.S. citizenship if their parents are not legal citizens of this country, and yet another case in point of this negative attitude was demonstrated by the party’s widespread support to defeat the Dream Act last year.

The latest Impre-Media/Latino Decisions poll shows that Latinos are not necessarily “pro-Democrat, but rather anti-Republican” due, as some speculate, to the party’s harsh anti-immigration rhetoric and continuous blockage of attempts for dialogue on comprehensive immigration reform. Be that as it may, we salute the efforts brought forth by Republican immigration advocates, and endorse the direction they have taken that breaks away from their previously laid down path because this growing insensitivity is bad news for the GOP.

On the other hand, the past mid-term election proved that they may not be too far behind the Democrats in terms of voter appeal given the support for a few Republican Hispanics for state-office. Moreover, if the party steps up the ante on the immigration issue by abandoning the anti-alien demagoguery and embracing comprehensive reform, they may reduce the margin of difference and may be able to win the Hispanic voter’s sympathy after all. It appears that what Republicans desperately need is to hold a “party meeting” to peruse over this issue and develop their game plan accordingly- and stick to it. Especially given that it is almost certain that immigration will be a major platform for the 2012 presidential race. This way the party will at least have a clear message to communicate during the campaign trail instead of sending mixed signals as they have done thus far. For as they say, more is lost by indecision than by wrong decision. It is time for the Republican party to make up their minds once and for all: will they be with us or against us?