In an interview on Univision over the weekend, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) spoke about the path forward for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR)—in particular, the need for Republican support and its notable absence. Senator Reid called attention to the fact that Arizona’s recent immigration law is a reaction to the lack of federal oversight on the issue—yet when push comes to shove, Arizona’s senators refuse to work with Democrats on a reform bill. Like many Republicans, Arizona Senators McCain and Kyl are hiding behind the “secure our borders first” line—a tired strategy that has only exacerbated the myriad of other problems within our broken immigration system. Although the enforcement-first sound bite may play well with Arizona voters today, the failure to find bipartisan solutions on immigration will continue to have negative long-term consequences. Will voters—especially Latino voters—support the Republican Party if its leaders are perceived as uniformly obstructionist on immigration reform? Will the “Party of No” become the “Party of No One” come election day?
Speaking to Univision host, Jorge Ramos, Senator Reid pointed out the obvious—if states like Arizona want federal action on immigration reform, why won’t their elected leaders work with Democrats on a reform bill?
I’m frustrated; I’m upset just like the people you referred to. We are committed to do comprehensive immigration reform, the President supports us on that, but I tell everyone we can’t do a bill unless we get some Republicans. How about one, how about two, how about three?
This is an issue that demands our attention and doesn’t demand the negativity, so irrational what is going on. We have Republican legislators all over the country focused on Arizona particularly, saying we are concerned about this because the federal government is not doing anything. The two senators from Arizona won’t work with us, it’s illogical to hear the state of Arizona complaining about the federal government not doing anything and the two Republican senators from Arizona won’t join with us to do anything.
And Harry Reid isn’t the only one who’s frustrated. Two recent public opinion polls confirmed that the majority of Americans think our immigration system is broken and that a get-tough, enforcement-only, deport-them-all strategy is NOT the best way to move forward. In fact, hundreds of thousands of supporters took to the streets earlier this month to demand congressional action on reform and to protest Arizona’s harsh immigration law. As other states contemplate similar anti-immigrant legislation, the drumbeat for reform is only going to get louder.
But just as Hispanic voters will likely hold the President’s feet to the fire for not moving quickly enough on reform this year, Republicans, too, will likely take a hit not only for obstructing progress, but for passing such a strict anti-immigrant bill in Arizona. As TIME reports:
But if the immediate danger is to Democrats seeking Hispanic votes this November, the longer-term danger is to Republicans if they’re perceived as blocking the legislation. The Arizona law, authored and passed by a Republican-controlled legislature and a Republican governor — means that the GOP starts this cycle with a black eye with the Hispanic community.
“There’s a great deal of pressure in the Republican Party to address it once and for all and move it off the table so they can start repairing their relationship with the Latino community,” says Clarissa Martinez de Castro, director of immigration and national campaigns at the National Council of La Raza, one of the country’s largest Hispanic advocacy groups. “Not doing so sets them on a suicidal course going into a presidential election.”
As Congress juggles energy, a Supreme Court nominee and immigration reform in the months ahead, voters should and will pay attention to how Democratic and Republican leaders move—and don’t move—on important issues like immigration. The question is, how big of a political price will leaders pay at the voting booth for obstructing movement on reform?
Photo by s myers.