GOP throws in the towel on immigration reform?

Just three days after their second consecutive election where a massive investment in demonizing immigrants did not pay off for the Republican Party, the leading GOP Presidential candidates have agreed to participate in a December Univision debate in Miami. There is simply no way to read this action as anything but a national repudiation of their extreme anti-immigrant strategy of recent years, and a desperate attempt to beg the Hispanic community for forgiveness.

Perhaps the GOP reviewed NDN's analysis of how the immigration issue played in the last two elections. (Learn more about how the growing Hispanic vote will be the key to either Party's 21st century majority in our new study on the Hispanic electorate and immigration, Hispanics Rising, and in a new piece we just published in Mother Jones.) Or perhaps they read former White House speechwriter Michael Gerson's column in the Washington Post which argued:

I have never seen an issue [immigration] where the short-term interests of Republican presidential candidates in the primaries were more starkly at odds with the long-term interests of the party itself. At least five swing states that Bush carried in 2004 are rich in Hispanic voters -- Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida. Bush won Nevada by just over 20,000 votes. A substantial shift of Hispanic voters toward the Democrats in these states could make the national political map unwinnable for Republicans … Some in the party seem pleased. They should be terrified.

Or this Washington Post report from Virginia about Tuesday's big GOP loss there:

The one point on which moderates and conservatives seem to agree is that their party overplayed the illegal immigration issue. "They went for a magic bullet with immigration, and it didn't work," says a conservative strategist who doesn't want his name used because his clients don't agree that immigration is a losing issue. Prince William County board Chairman Corey Stewart, the strategist says, "won last year as the anti-tax and anti-growth candidate, and he ended up in the same place this year. He pushed hard on immigration, but it didn't move his numbers" in his reelection victory Tuesday.

Moderates say harsh rhetoric on immigration repelled independent voters. Northern Virginians "know this crackdown on illegal immigration was posturing," Potts says. "The only entity in the world that could solve that problem is the federal government."

Or this analysis from Roll Call's executive editor Morton Kondracke from yesterday:

For the umpteenth time, American voters this year have rejected a nativist approach to illegal immigration. It ought to be a warning to Republicans: Don’t make this your 2008 wedge issue.

Election results on Tuesday, especially in Virginia and New York state, also should encourage nervous Democrats that they can support comprehensive immigration reform — stronger enforcement plus earned legalization — and prevail.

Kondracke noted that, while the GOP's general strategy poses a threat, their insistence upon using the issue is even worse:

Even though past election results overwhelmingly indicate that enforcement-only campaigns don’t succeed — indeed, by offending Hispanics, pose a long-term threat to the GOP — Republicans seem bent on making illegal immigration a centerpiece of their 2008 campaigns.


Despite all that evidence, House GOP leaders have staged vote after vote on amendments designed to restrict benefits to illegal immigrants — even where the law already restricts them — and Senate Republicans led the way, joined by nine Democrats, in filibustering the DREAM Act, which would have allowed young people brought to the U.S. by illegal immigrants to earn citizenship.

If Republicans want to destroy their future prospects in increasingly Hispanic, once-Republican states like Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona, it’s their option. But the process could be very nasty.

Or this recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal - "Hispanics and the GOP."

Either way, the GOP's decision to go to Miami next month is a good one for the country. Let us hope it signals a new era for the Republican Party, one that ends both their demonization of immigrants and their strategy of blocking all common sense immigration reform legislation. In 2006 it was the House Republicans who blocked the big immigration reform package. In 2007 it was the Senate Republicans. Perhaps their admission of defeat will allow a new era where the two parties can come together and design a new 21st century immigration system that reflects the strong values of our great nation and meets the needs of the changing modern American economy.