The Republican Party can forget about winning the 2016 Presidential election if they do not make definitive progress in wooing both Hispanic and Asian voters to vote Republican. It is that simple.
Further, if Republicans do not pass immigration reform this year, Democrats will not allow Republicans to pass their conservative version of immigration reform in 2015 or 2016, because they will have no incentive to allow Republicans to do anything that will allow the Republicans to make inroads with immigrant voting blocks heading into the presidential elections.
Therefore, logic dictates that this year, 2014, is the last chance for Republicans to achieve any type of immigration reform that adheres to their more conservative member’s values. If they elect to punt on immigration until next year, their punt will be blocked. There is no chance that the Democrats will do anything in 2015 or 2016 that will allow the Republicans to demonstrate to immigrants that the Republicans care about them.
The Republicans will raise a stink, and probably move to sue the president over executive overreach. So what? The deed will be done, and the President will leave the problem for Hillary Clinton to deal with, because the failure of Republicans to move immigration reform forward will certainly mean that she will be the next President. If anything, when the Republicans complain about the President’s “amnesty,” it will only serve to solidify the immigrant community’s disdain for Republicans. Make no mistake, if the Republicans do not pass immigration reform this year, they will regret it for at least the next decade, if not longer.
Ironically, the vast majority of Republican voters are in favor of immigration reform that, at minimum, secures the border and grants the undocumented population an earned opportunity for legalization, if not citizenship. Poll after poll has documented this fact. Further, having spoken with many, many Republican members of Congress, the vast majority of Republican Congressmen are in favor of such reform.
Frankly, I am flabbergasted that Republicans are stalling on the issue of reform. I feel like I am in a dream, where I am watching a disaster unfold in slow motion, yet I am unable to stop it from happening.
The politics of this issue cannot be denied, nor can the irony. The Hispanic community is, at heart, very socially conservative and entrepreneurial. Yet, the Republicans continue to alienate this community solely because they refuse to move immigration reform. We must keep in mind that most of the Hispanic population is here legally, and are therefore as American as anybody else. Recent polling has documented that 51% of Hispanic citizens consider themselves to be politically independent. Ironically, they are the quintessential “swing voters.” Further, the Hispanic voting population is growing significantly on a daily basis. A Hispanic citizen turns 18 every 30 seconds. That is over 600,000 new Hispanic voters every year. In addition, “get out the vote” efforts by La Raza, the SEIU, and many, many other organizations are registering Hispanic citizens to vote in huge numbers - and you better believe that they are registering these folks as Democrats. Their efforts will easily top the number of Hispanics that turn 18 every year. The failure of Republicans to move forward on immigration is tying the hands of the RNC, one of the only groups trying to register Hispanics as Republicans.
Therefore, in 2016, instead of the over 12,000,000 Hispanic voters that voted in 2012, there will be over 16,000,000 Hispanic voters. This is not to mention Asian voters. We should remember that it was the Asian voters that voted for President Obama by a 77-23 margin in the last election. There were almost 4,000,000 Asian voters in 2012, and there will be almost 5,000,000 in 2016. The Asian voters made the difference that pushed Obama over Romney in Virginia, and they are the fastest growing minority segment in the United States.
I can only say that if Republicans misplay their hand, and fail to move immigration reform this year, they will lose the immigrant vote by something on the order of 80-20 in the 2016 election. In other words, they will lose the immigrant vote by over 13,000,000 votes. That is a very difficult number to overcome. In fact, it is a virtual mathematical impossibility.
Now, to be clear, securing our border, securing our workplace, and bringing the 11,000,000 undocumented immigrants out of the terrifying and devastating shadows of society is the right thing to do for our economy, our security, and morally. That is why I am pushing for Congress to do the right thing for America, and pass this much needed reform. However, the political reality is that for Republicans, it is now or never to literally save their party. Therefore, I urge our Republican leaders, if you won’t pass reform to benefit our security, our economy, and because it is morally the right thing to do, at least pass reform to save us from another decade or more of the progressive agenda. Please.
Gittelson is vice president for Governmental Affairs at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and president of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.