Immigration Reform Hopes Beginning to Fade

Republicans are facing a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation when it comes to immigration reform.

So says Rafael Fernandez de Castro in the Huffington Post. He argues Republicans will pay a price from their base (in the form of a primary challenge) if they vote for immigration reform now, but they may pay a bigger price down the road if they don’t vote for reform.

For Republicans, the essential problem is one of long-term prospects versus short-term incentives. In the long-term, the GOP desperately needs to begin attracting a larger share of the fastest-growing demographic group. Hispanics are America’s youngest major racial group at a time when the Republicans’ principal constituency, Whites, are not only becoming a smaller proportion of the population, but are also aging quickly.

However, short-term incentives cannot be disregarded. Due to gerrymandering, Republican Congressmen increasingly represent politically and ethnically homogeneous districts: most voted decisively for Mr. Romney, and more than half of House Republicans represent a population that is less than 10 percent Hispanic. Meanwhile, the most engaged faction of the GOP, the Tea Party, has been the most outspoken, renouncing some of their erstwhile darlings, like Senator Rubio, who now favor reform and labelling them as RINOS (Republicans In Name Only). Legislators’ fear is more from a primary challenge than an election, and so have little personal incentive to support the bill.

Meanwhile, the prospects for immigration reform in 2013 are rapidly fading as budgetary matters will begin to take precedence in Congress. From Politico:

The mid-October debt ceiling deadline — an earlier-than-expected target laid out Monday by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew — is changing the House GOP leadership’s plans to pass immigration bills that month.

“If we have to deal with the debt limit earlier, it doesn’t change the overall dynamics of the debate, but — just in terms of timing — it might make it harder to find time for immigration bills in October,” one House Republican leadership aide said.