If conservative grassroots opposition to comprehensive immigration reform hasn't diminished, why would House Republicans make a good faith effort to pass it before this year's elections?
The valid political arguments against it haven't changed:
- There is no way to bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows without de facto amnesty.
- Giving new Latino citizens the right to vote is a boon for the Democratic Party and will hasten the Republican Party's demographic collapse, with millions of new Democratic-leaning voters added to the rolls in critical Sun Belt and Southern states over the next ten years.
- Immigration reform will be a victory for Democrats and for President Obama.
- Immigrants generally require more government assistance during the first few years of their residency here, and signing up younger Latino families for the Affordable Care Act provides a large transfer of wealth to those families and hastens the day when ObamaCare will be seen as a success.
The fringe and "cultural" arguments also haven't changed. If anything, they're more openly expressed. Ann Coulter's column castigating immigrants for being fundamentally and unalterably opposed to American values is one example.
So what's John Boehner thinking? As Matt Lewis persuasively suggests, now is the least worst time to lance a boil that Republicans must lance if they are to survive.
If the GOP is going to do well in the midterms anyway, the party can take the hit from the (potentially) decreased passion among the base and not have it manifest in any significant way.
(1) At some point, Republicans will no longer be able to build national political coalitions without reliably attracting more than 40 percent of the Latino vote. This is demographic destiny. The date of this eschaton can be delayed but not put off.
(2) Republicans will endure short term pain. (They'll have given amnesty to people who don't deserve it. They'll be laying the groundwork for a cohort of Democratic voters. They'll be ratifying ObamaCare.)
(3) Every cycle that passes by without immigration reform is a cycle that is one more removed from the day when Republicans will begin to rebuild a new political coalition that includes more Latinos.
(4) Completely aside from the merits of immigration reform, Democrats will wield the failure to pass immigration reform as a meat cleaver, and effectively so, to bash the GOP's intentions not only to Latinos but also to young voters and upscale professionals who otherwise admire Republican principles.
(5) The year the GOP helps to pass immigration reform is the year that Republicans take away this weapon from Democrats. If Democrats lack this weapon, Republicans can begin to appeal to Latinos on their own terms.