www.redeyechicago.com/news/chi-can-republicans-shift-on-immigration-20121128,0,7491947.column

redeyechicago.com

Minority of One blog

Can Republicans shift on immigration?

Steve Chapman

3:46 PM CST, November 28, 2012

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It's obvious to everyone that Republicans need to take a less restrictive and punitive approach to immigration. That became clear on Election Day, when Mitt Romney found himself badly beaten among a Hispanic segment that is only going to keep growing.

Latinos, as it happens, will soon become the biggest group in Texas -- and if Texas tips to the Democrats, Republicans will find it extremely hard to win a presidential election, given that California, New York and Illinois are reliably blue.

The next GOP nominee will probably take a softer line on immigration. But that doesn't mean congressional Republicans will do the same. Most House members come from safe Republican districts that they won while denouncing illegal immigration. That approach has worked fine for them. Moving to the middle might not: These Republicans don't have to worry about their Democratic opponents. They do have to worry about being challenged in the primary by a tea party candidate.

Accepting anything that can be denounced as "amnesty" is inviting such challenges in a lot of House districts. Senators may be different, since their electorates may be turning more Hispanic. But any legislation needs buy-in from a lot of GOP conservatives. And while it is desirable for them to elect Republicans to the White House, it is absolutely essential that they hang on to their own seats.

A lot of people assume that the party will do what it must to compete with a changing electorate. What's rational for the GOP as a whole, alas, may not be so rational for an individual congressman. Maybe immigration reform of the sort President Obama can sign will get enough Republican votes to pass the House. But don't be surprised if it doesn't.