It's Not About Securing the Borders

Seems all you keep hearing about lately is how concerned Republicans are about the border security provisions in the immigration reform bill taking shape in the Senate. John Boehner – the incredible shrinking Speaker of the House – put in his penny’s worth:

“I frankly think the Senate bill is weak on border security, I think the internal enforcement mechanisms are weak and the triggers are almost laughable.”

Ironic that Boehner, of all people, would use words like weak and laughable, seeing as how his entire tenure as Speaker has been just that: weak and laughable. But Boehner isn’t alone in voicing his “concerns” about immigration reform; the vast majority of House Republicans are in a tizzy over it, though not for the reasons they claim.

The simple truth is, despite all the groaning and moaning over the borders, the real problem for the GOP is the so-called pathway to citizenship. Succinctly put, the Republican base is paranoid about the prospect of 11 million new American citizens, the vast majority of whom, it feels, will be Democratic voters. The border security thing is nothing but a ruse.

And that’s why I am dubious about the prospects of immigration reform passing this Congress anytime soon. The Senate will likely pass its bill with at least 70 votes. But it will die when it gets to the House. Border surge or no border surge, the Tea Party and Heritage Foundation faction will kill it. No amount of extra security provisions will sway a group that is predisposed against a bill that, many pundits feel, offers the best, perhaps last, chance to dramatically improve the GOP’s image within the Latino community.

The math is irrefutable. Consider that in last year’s election, Mitt Romney got only 47 percent of the popular vote – how fitting, don’t you think? – and lost the popular vote by about 5 million. Among Latinos, he managed a paltry 27 percent. In 2004, Mr. Rhodes scholar himself, George Bush, got 44 percent. If Romney had just equaled Bush’s numbers within that group, he would’ve picked up an extra 2 million votes and Barack Obama would’ve gotten 2 million less. Not enough to change the outcome, but certainly close enough to make things interesting.

By thumbing its nose at immigration reform, the GOP is, in effect, making two huge and fatal mistakes:

1. It’s assuming that a majority of these future voters will necessarily be Democrat.While it is true that lower-middle class and working poor families tend to vote Democrat, virtually every poll has concluded that as people move up the income ladder, they become more moderate in their voting habits. Hispanics, perhaps more than any other demographic group, do not fit into one neat paradigm. Socially, they tend to be right of center, which you’d think would be a valuable commodity for the Republican Party.

2. The GOP has hitched itself to a wagon that is steadily decreasing in size and significance and is going nowhere fast.  The number of white males in the United States – by far the largest group of likely Republican voters – is shrinking as a percentage of the electorate. By the middle of this century, whites will cease to be the majority in the country. Nothing can stop that from happening. There simply aren’t enough white men to offset the expected rise in African-Americans and Hispanics.

Michael Tomasky’s recent piece in The Daily Beast may have best summed up the dilemma that Republicans now face.

“And thus we have it: something that would obviously be good for their party in the long run, supporting reform so that they can start the process of appealing to Latino voters, is dangerous in the short run.”

It comes down to one of two choices for the Republican Party: either they accept and embrace the increasing cultural diversity of the nation and flourish, or they continue to resist that inescapable reality and face political oblivion.



Author: Peter Fegan

Progressive but pragmatic. Lover of music, die-hard Giants' fan and reluctant Mets' fan. My favorite motto? I'd rather be ruled by a smart Turk than a dumb Christian.

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