The stakes are high for the party and for the nation.
D.C. REPUBLICANS ARE STOKING A GOP CIVIL WAR
The immigration debate threatens to tear the Republican Party apart–not because of disagreements over the principle of immigration reform, but because of disagreements over strategy and tactics that may become insurmountable. The party leadership, believing that immigration reform will appeal to Hispanic voters, is attempting to impose its will on rank-and-file conservatives who object to current legislative proposals.
The recently-passed Senate immigration bill includes provisions for border security as well as the legalization of illegal aliens. Conservatives believe, however, that legalization must be contingent on border security, since the Obama administration has a record of refusing to enforce laws it does not like. Neither the so-called “triggers” in the bill, nor the new spending on border security, provide adequate guarantees, conservatives say.
Republican leaders concede these arguments, but argue that failing to pass any legislation now will simply make the problem worse. Privately, some of the same Republican leaders argue for passing the legislation for purely political reasons, in order to stop the attrition of Hispanic voters. The party’s recent internal “autopsy”insists bluntly that Republicans “must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.” Period.
Opponents of the bill point out that the party’s share of the Hispanic vote fell after Reagan’s amnesty of 1986, and that Mitt Romney would have lost in 2012 even with an overwhelming majority of the Hispanic vote. The grass-roots suspects the leadership’s real motivation is to reward special interest lobbies. The leadership, meanwhile, has joined Democrats in accusing conservative opponents of the bill of “nativism.”
Broadly speaking, however, there is no substantive disagreement among Republicans over immigration. There are a few groups that oppose any increase in immigration, but they are a very small minority. The real fight is about whether Washington can be trusted. The same fault lines appear elsewhere–in the NSA scandal, for example, where grass-roots anger about the Bush-era program is driven by mistrust of Obama’s government.