This week, the conflicting messaging on immigration from Republican politicians is particularly hard to follow. Voters can “press one” for Senator Lindsay Graham’s message that immigration reform is reality if we just pass a border bill; “press two” for Senator Orrin Hatch’s message that Utah voters want to welcome immigrants by stopping them from coming; or “press three” for House Republicans’ message that DHS shouldn’t spend any money on immigrant integration. While the first option at least acknowledges the importance of the growing immigrant voting bloc, the other two options do not.
Senator Graham recently reiterated his belief that immigration reform is critical to the future of the Republican party bu asking, “How in the world can the Republican Party sustain itself nationally without reform?” The answer, according to Juan Williams at Fox News, comes in the form of a deal with Democrats on the McCain-Kyl border bill. If Democrats support McCain-Kyl, Graham promises he and these border state Senators will find GOP votes in the Senate for comprehensive immigration reform:
“Pass this bill pronto,” said Graham, “and then it is on to immigration reform. We can get 80 votes in the Senate if we first get a vote on the McCain-Kyl bill. And then it will sail through the House because it lays the immigration reform issue in our [Republican] lap. Then the question will be for Republicans, ‘Are you interested in fixing the immigration problem or not?’”
It’s not clear that they would be able to get Senator Orrin Hatch, whose recent speech at the Heritage Foundation made it clear that he thinks Utah voters want tough laws, not “amnesty.” Hatch, who is facing a primary challenge from Tea Partiers, has been a leading critic of the Obama administration’s consideration of any form of administrative relief that might help a few people stay in the United States until Congress stops dragging its feet on immigration reform. His new legislation, Strengthening our Commitment to Legal Immigration and America’s Security Act, (S. 332), would cut off any chance of broad administrative relief, but more importantly, would do nothing to actually support or improve legal immigration. Despite claims that he is welcoming to immigrants, Sen. Hatch, once an original sponsor of the DREAM Act, failed to show up for the DREAM vote this past December.
Republican House leadership is also making it clear that they aren’t interested in welcoming immigrants. Their Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) would slash numerous grant programs—including a successful and popular grant initiative run by the Office of Citizenship at USCIS. Although continuing some funding for asylum and refugee processing, Section 1635 of the CR explicitly forbids the funding of any immigrant integration grants. This initiative, originally funded at the end of the Bush administration, provides much needed support to programs that prepare legal residents for citizenship. In other words, the very people opponents of immigration reform claim to support are the target of these cuts.
This growing insensitivity toward legal immigrants—who are on track to become U.S. citizens, and therefore, voters—is bad news for the GOP. New polling data shows that Latinos are not necessarily “pro-Democrat, but rather anti-Republican” due, as some speculate, to the party’s harsh anti-immigration rhetoric and recent blockage of the DREAM Act.
Senator Graham is right when he says that the Republican party needs immigration reform for political viability (as do Democrats), but the increasingly confusing messages coming from Republican politicians is becoming more and more like those automated voice mail systems that never let you talk to a real human being. At some point, you get frustrated and hang up. Unless they change their message, Republicans may find more and more voters hanging up on them.
Photo by pouwerkerk.