www.redeyechicago.com/news/chi-republicans-vs-immigration-reform-20130621,0,3732262.column

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Minority of One blog

Will Republicans allow immigration reform?

Steve Chapman

4:01 PM CDT, June 21, 2013

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House Speaker John Boehner's announcement that he won't let an immigration reform bill come to the floor without majority support among House Republicans -- even if it has majority support in the House as a whole -- strikes me as a probably fatal blow to the legislation.

Everyone knows the national Republican party needs to improve its image among Hispanic voters, the fastest-growing minority, if it's going to elect a president in 2016 or 2020. But members of Congress put a lower priority on electing a president than keeping their seats. And supporting immigration reform is not likely to help most GOP congressman at the polls.

Why not? First, because they can win without Hispanic support. They all won last year, in the face of the Obama victory, despite their nominee's poor showing among Latinos. The incumbents who were most vulnerable are gone, because they lost.

Second, because many Republicans represent districts that don't have many Latinos anyway. Reports Politico, "More than 60 percent of House Republicans represent a population that is less than 10 percent Hispanic. And while Hispanics make up 17 percent of the national overall population, nearly 80 percent of Republicans represent districts below that figure."

A Republican member who votes for immigration reform isn't likely to significantly boost his vote totals among Latinos, because his district probably doesn't have many, and most of them lean Democratic regardless. What he is more likely to do is antagonize hardline conservatives and tea partiers -- and, possibly, provoke a challenge in the Republican primary.

Most House Republicans don't have to worry about losing to a Democrat, because their districts are gerrymandered to assure a GOP victory. What they worry about is losing to a Republican. So they have a big incentive not to let anyone get to the right of them on immigration issues.

What's good for GOP presidential candidates --and for the country -- is not the same as what's good for GOP House members. And what's good for House members is what they'll vote for. Immigration reform isn't one of those.