Monday, January 28, 2013

Immigration reform may actually happen — or not


I’m really excited this week because there is a new topic in the world of politics. I was getting a bit brain-numb on the topics of gun control and the economy so this new order of business snuck in just in time.

After years of doing not-much on the issue, Congress has decided to tackle the problem of immigration reform. A “gang of eight” — consisting of Republicans Mark Rubio of Florida, Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Michael Bennet of Colorado and New York’s senior senator, Chuck Schumer — have come together to tackle the issue just as a majority of Americans say they want the issue addressed.

Over the weekend it was announced that a new new Associated Press-GfK poll has found that more than 60 percent of Americans now favor allowing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country. That's a huge jump from just two years ago when  only 50 percent supported the idea.

“We have a long way to go, but this bipartisan blueprint is a major breakthrough,” Schumer said Monday, adding the Senate could pass the bill by late spring or summer.

Democrats, of course, have pushed for immigration reform for a long time. Republicans, it would seem, have decided to join them in this effort because they’re realized that they have a reputation as the “old white-guy party” and old white guys are dwindling in numbers compared to women and minorities.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put in a subtle jab at the GOP, while thanking them for their change in position on the subject. “(Democrats) have been doing this alone,” he said. “It’s good to have some friends and partners in this effort.”

Even Karl Rove is praising this bipartisan effort. In what I would call a rare moment of candor, he even acknowledges that it will “bear some political fruit” for the GOP.

In November, President Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic, while Mitt Romney gained just 27 percent of that demographic. And worse for Republicans, 89 percent of the GOP vote overall was from whites, while 11 percent was from non-whites. Comparatively, Obama’s vote was 56 percent white and 44 percent non-white.

In other words, if the GOP had actually pulled some votes from people other than old white guys, they might have had a shot in 2012. And they’re hoping that if they dust off their image and come out as being more forward thinking on the immigration issue, they might increase their odds in 2016.

And if I can figure this out, surely Chuck Schumer and the brass in the Democratic Party can do the same. Which makes me wonder if they’ll consider putting a poison pill in the eventual legislation — something Republicans will hate — forcing the rank-and-file members of the Grand Old Party to vote it down, thereby allowing the Democrats to claim they fought for immigration reform but they couldn’t win against those dastardly Republicans.

Sadly politics means looking for the bad in everything good.

Scott Leffler thinks immigration reform would be good. But he’s not holding his breath. If he does hold his breath, he’ll update his Twitter — @scottleffler.