Friday, June 28, 2013

Why House Republicans Should Support Immigration Reform

With the Senate having passed an Immigration Reform bill, the House of Representatives will now take up this critical issue. The internal GOP debates are sure to be both fierce and passionate.

From my perspective, Republicans should regard this reform effort as one deserving of their support. Most importantly, the bill offers a flawed but real opportunity to address the two great weaknesses of our immigration system: The presence of over 11 million undocumented illegal immigrants in a state of legal limbo and a border that remains effectively unsecured. This reality poses significant challenges to the well being of the United States. It creates significant financial burdens (for example in uninsured health care costs), it sustains a massive underground economy and it poses major challenges in terms of both criminal/terrorism related concerns. This dysfunction must find resolution.

However, there's another reason why GOP representatives should support reform - politics. 

It's true, in the short term, it's very likely that immigration reform will favor Democrats. The President will sign a law (if it reaches his desk) and as a result, he will be perceived as the primary agent of its creation. In short, Democrats will bear the immediate dividends. Yet, this being said, Republicans need to begin a perception rapprochement with Hispanic Americans. National elections require the engagement of a broad spectrum of voters - this dynamic will only accelerate going forwards. By illustrating a willingness to engage in serious compromise and in a way that meets key conservative concerns (in this case- border security imperatives), the GOP will earn a 'second look' from Hispanic voters as a viable alternative to the Democratic Party. 

Immigration reform won't weaken the Republican brand, it's passage will re-frame and renew that identity.

For conservatives to meaningfully assert those messages most likely to appeal to Hispanic voters - strong families, personal responsibility and social mobility, Hispanic Americans must first be listening. At the moment, we're being ignored.

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